Medal of Honor Finalist Spotlight
March 28, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio
- The 2016 Ohio State Scholar-Athlete Dinner will be held Tuesday, marking the 49th edition of the banquet that recognizes the outstanding academic achievements of Ohio State student-athletes.

Each year, the Scholar-Athlete Dinner is capped with the presentation of the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Each member institution in the conference gives the award annually to the male and female student-athletes in the graduating class who have attained the greatest proficiency in both academics and athletics. The Big Ten Conference office established the award in 1914 for men and an additional award for the top female was instituted in 1982. The award includes a $5,000 postgraduate scholarship. This year, five women and five men are finalists for the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The women's finalists are: Rebecca Rings (Track & Field/Cross Country), Catherine Shields (Rowing), Maddy McIntyre (Softball), Celina Merza (Fencing), and Michela Paradiso (Soccer).

With the Scholar-Athlete Dinner approaching, Medal of Honor finalists chatted about their experiences as standouts both athletically and academically at Ohio State.

Maddy McIntyre, softball

Looking back at your time at Ohio State, what are some lasting memories you will take with you?
The memories I'll take with me all come from being around the team. Traveling with the team, team retreats, run tests, early morning practices, big wins, and excelling with a group of girls you have worked so hard with. A few come to mind right off the bat. I'll never forget the run test we did our sophomore year. It was 12 100-yard sprints and each week we worked our way from five sprints to 12 until everyone on the team completed the sprint within their specific time. We dreaded each Monday. The movie Pitch Perfect came out during the weeks of the run test and the whole team planned to fall on the ground when coach said, "go" and "horizontal run." Coach [Kelly Kovach Schoenly] let us count that as one sprint and it was the first time the team completed all 12 sprints. There will never be a time in my life where I can walk into a facility and be surrounded by NCAA champions, future Olympians and CEO's. We enter these facilities with different backgrounds and upbringings but chase the same goals with camaraderie unlike any other. There's truly nothing more exciting than overcoming an obstacle with your sisters, and I can't wait to see what goals we obtain this year.

What are some of the challenges that come with balancing athletics and academics, and how do you meet those tests?
There are always going to be challenges in anything we do in life and I truly believe that the discipline and time management I have learned through playing sports, being successful academically, and working has prepared me for anything that comes next. Coach told us since the day she got to Ohio State that our time is like a coffee mug filled with family, academics, faith and softball. Our social life is the whipped cream on the top once the other four obligations are completed. I'm very thankful for the support and flexibility the coaching staff has given me academically and know I wouldn't be successful without them.

What does it mean to you personally to be a Buckeye?
Being a Buckeye is the understanding that you represent something much bigger than yourself. It's wearing your respective jersey with pride and an understanding of the amount of people who have previously been in your shoes. As a current student-athlete, I strive to carry on the tradition and excellence of those before me, and pave the way for those coming after me. We don't represent just ordinary people -- they are extraordinary. And the national pride our university represents is unlike anywhere else in the world. I'm proud to be a Buckeye!

Celina Merza, Fencing

Looking back at your time at Ohio State, what are some lasting memories you will take with you?
A lasting memory I will take with me is winning NCAA Championships my freshman year with the team. That was a moment where I was proud to be a part of something so powerful and motivating and looked to fight for my team anytime I fence.

What are some of the challenges that come with balancing athletics and academics, and how do you meet those tests?
Some of the challenges that come with being a student-athlete are juggling school work while traveling so much. It's an important thing to realize that although we are athletes, student comes in front of being a student-athlete, so balancing all of that out can be super overwhelming. I've accomplished this by staying really organized and having skilled time management. It's helped me be more conscious of my responsibilities both in and out of the gym.

What does it mean to you personally to be a Buckeye?
Being a Buckeye is being a part of a family - a family that you will always have at your side supporting you and at your side when you are at your lowest. Being a Buckeye is to conform to a holistic movement, yet it pushes you to stand out and be unique. It is living your life with no regrets and knowing you have people around you that help make you who you are.

Michela Paradiso, soccer

Looking back at your time at Ohio State, what are some lasting memories you will take with you?
Of course I will cherish all the victories and games played because I have a deep passion for the game. However, I will especially cherish my teammates. Teammates are unique friends because they help bring out the best version of you, which at times can be difficult and hard to hear. Throughout my time at Ohio State, I have grown and matured in ways only possible because of the genuine, hard-working people I am surrounded by daily. The lasting memories of running the extra sprint or putting in the extra rep are the ones that I value the most.

What are some of the challenges that come with balancing athletics and academics, and how do you meet those tests?
I believe the hardest part about balancing top performance in athletics and academics is being mentally sharp for so many hours. Collegiate sports require mental toughness and power for every practice. Coupling a tough practice with rushing off to class all day can be exhausting and wearying. I believe every student-athlete handles these pressures differently but throughout my career, I have grown to understand the importance of perspective and asking for help.

What does it mean to you personally to be a Buckeye?
When I tell someone that I am a Buckeye, I can't help but smile. I have so much pride in belonging to a community where excellence is expected and achieved every season of every year. I take pride in the size and scope of the athletic community and the greatest fan base that bleeds scarlet and gray. Being a Buckeye is much more than just having outstanding statistics, it's about the process of how we achieve them.

Rebecca Rings, Track & Field

Looking back at your time at Ohio State, what are some lasting memories you will take with you?
I feel like I'm going to remember the little things about spending time with my teammates the most, like the chatter in the van on the way home from a long run, or getting breakfast as a team after morning practice, or pretending the long jump pit is a beach on spring break. These are the things I'm really going to miss after graduation.

What are some of the challenges that come with balancing athletics and academics, and how do you meet those tests?
Time seems to be the biggest issue, between practice and track meets and classes there doesn't always seem like there's enough hours in the day to get everything done. Planning ahead and prioritizing assignments has definitely helped, but I've still spent a lot of late nights finishing chemistry labs and research papers. Coffee always has been good for facilitating productivity.

What does it mean to you personally to be a Buckeye?
To me, being a Buckeye means being part of a family. I'm a third-generation Buckeye, with my parents and grandparents all having attended Ohio State, and since I've been here I've found a sense of family with my teammates as well as with the other students in the biomedical science major. It's cool to know that you can travel almost anywhere in the world and yell "O-H" and someone will respond with an "I-O!"

Catherine Shields, Rowing

Looking back at your time at Ohio State, what are some lasting memories you will take with you?
The lasting memories I have at Ohio State are of the teammates I have been so fortunate to meet over the years – dedicated, hard-working women who have taught me so much about what it is to be a part of a team that trains and races like a Buckeye!

What are some of the challenges that come with balancing athletics and academics, and how do you meet those tests?
Time is always a test when it comes to balancing athletics and academics. Sometimes it feels like everything is happening at once and it can become very stressful. I like to make sure I know exactly what is due and when so I can prioritize the order of my study and then use training as a way to have a break from school work.

What does it mean to you personally to be a Buckeye?
I love being a Buckeye. When I first arrived here at Ohio State, I had no idea I would come to love this university so much! The pride everyone has for Ohio State is amazing and to be a part of. It is something I'll never forget.

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