Winning on Both Sides
Two-Time East Division Player of Year Puts Academics First
|Pictured in the UT Tyler engineering department’s Computer Aided Design Lab, mechanical
engineering major Beth Launius focuses heavily on her studies between tennis events.
Beth Launius is a powerful force in Patriot
women’s tennis, taking on her opponents
with amazing skill and strategy and racking
up top honors in the American Southwest
Conference. In addition to her team winning
two consecutive ASC East Division
Championships, the junior from LaGrange
captured the ASC East Division Women’s
Player of the Year title as a freshman and
again as a sophomore.
And after completing a four-year NCAA
provisional status during which they were
ineligible for postseason play, this is the first
season for UT Tyler student-athletes to compete
as full-fledged playoff-eligible NCAA
members. Launius and her teammates are
eager to enter the playoffs, but winning at
tennis is only part of the picture for them.
Performing well academically is their top
Student-athletes at UT Tyler are known for
performing well academically as well as athletically,
and the women’s tennis team is
leading the way. They earned the highest
team grade point average of all UT Tyler athletic
teams for the 2006-07 academic year.
Their fall semester GPA of 3.42 was the
highest ever for a UT Tyler athletic team.
Launius pulls her own weight with a cumulative
3.81 GPA, focusing heavily on her
studies in mechanical engineering between
tennis events, said tennis coach Chris Bizot.
“It’s amazing how Beth can go from a three- to
four-hour lab in engineering and come out here
and practice tennis for two hours or play a
match and compete at such a high level. After
that, she has to go back and study and work on
class assignments. That’s just not easy to do,
especially for a mechanical engineering major
who is taking a lot of labs. It is a very time consuming
Launius “certainly has been a standout in the
classroom,’’ said Dr. Jeffrey Mountain, associate
professor of mechanical engineering.
“She has attended three of my class offerings:
Mechanical Engineering I, a computer aided
design and graphics course; Mechanical
Engineering II, a computer programming
course; and Statics, a first course in engineering
mechanics. In each case, Beth was at, or
very near, the top of her class,” he said.
“Her primary strengths are the ability to juggle
busy academic and athletic schedules and
get her day-to-day work completed on time.
She manages to keep current with her assignments,
without complaining about the workload,
which is substantial in an engineering
program,’’ the professor said. “It is an added
bonus to the university that she is also a star
on the tennis court and is able to contribute
to the quality of our athletic program.’’
Choosing UT Tyler
Launius was heavily recruited by university
athletic programs both in and out of state
upon her graduation from LaGrange High
School in Central Texas, where she was a star
tennis player and the Class of 2005 salutatorian.
The daughter of Ken and Amy Launius
chose UT Tyler after her first visit to campus.
“After receiving the recruiting letter from Coach Bizot, I came here for a visit and was
immediately drawn to the university, not just
because of the awesome tennis program and
beautiful campus but mainly because of the
outstanding engineering program. And I like
the fact that academics come first at UT
Tyler,’’ said the 20-year-old, who chose
mechanical engineering because of her enjoyment of math and science.
She said UT Tyler provides her with the
types of challenges she hoped to experience
in university academics and athletics.
“I wanted to be challenged, and that is exactly
what I get at this university. Education is
extremely important to me, and it is vital
that I attend a school where the faculty and
staff take my education as seriously as I do.
The professors here care about their students.
They know us, push us, teach us to expect
the most of ourselves by not settling for less
than our maximum potential,’’ said Launius,
who spent last summer as an engineering
intern with the Lower Colorado River
Authority near her hometown.
“And the athletic coaches really push
academics,’’ she said. “Coach Bizot keeps it
before us that we are here primarily to get an
Bizot, who has coached the Patriot men’s and
women’s teams since 2004, said his players
are self-motivated to perform well in their
“I spent a lot of time recruiting and was very
fortunate to get student-athletes who not
only are good players but also want to do
well in the classroom. They take a lot of pride
in earning a high GPA. The men’s team also
does well academically and, last fall, they had
the second highest team GPA among all UT
Tyler student-athletes. So there’s a little
competition going on between the women
and men to see which team will get the
highest GPA. It’s a friendly, healthy type of
talented player and quiet leader, Launius
has made significant contributions to UT
Tyler women’s tennis, her coach said.
“She’s a very strong player, very gifted. Beth
is also very quiet so you’re not going to hear
a lot from her. She can be very engaging the
more you get to know her, but overall she is
pretty reserved and quiet, especially on the
court. She doesn’t show a lot of emotion,
positive or negative. And that can be a good
thing because no matter what the situation is
as far as where we are in a match, if it’s the
first point or the last point, she tends to treat
it the same way. That’s a good approach to
have,’’ said Bizot, who was named ASC East
Division Women’s Coach of the Year in 2006
and again last season.
In addition to winning Player of the Year in
2005 and 2006, Launius was East Division
Freshman of the Year in 2005 and in both
seasons made the ASC All-Conference Team,
ASC All-East Division First Team, ASC
Player of the Week and Intercollegiate Tennis
Association Academic Scholar-Athlete.
“I’ve always loved tennis and the challenge
of it,’’ said Launius, who began playing
competitively at age 11. “In my opinion,
tennis is different than other sports because
you’re out there by yourself on the court. The
coaches talk to you sometimes, but basically
you’re by yourself. So it’s about having
personal confidence. It really is a challenge.’’
Launius welcomed the opportunity to play
her sport as part of her university experience.
“I really enjoy playing tennis here, the competition,
the challenge, getting to spend time
with my teammates. We have a lot of fun
together, especially when we travel to athletic
events. We joke around a lot and we know
each other really well,’’ she said. “When I
came here as a freshman, I was pretty far away
from home and didn’t know anyone. I
remember feeling a little uneasy at first, but I
got to know my teammates and we became
like a family. We take care of each other and
we know we can always count on each other.’’
Although much of her time off the tennis
court is spent studying, Launius gets
involved in other aspects of university life.
She participates in the Student-Athlete
Advisory Committee, the student chapter of
the American Society of Mechanical
Engineering and community service activities.
“I try and manage my time so that I’m not
always studying,’’ she said. “I do my homework
as soon as I get out of class and I take
my study notes with me when we travel to
athletic events. And one of my roommates is
a mechanical engineering major. We support
each other in our studies.’’
After finishing her undergraduate degree,
Launius plans to further her engineering
studies as a graduate student. As for a career
in engineering, she will keep her options open.
“I’ll just try to find a job that interests me,
something that I’ll like doing every day. My
dad always jokes that he wants me to work as
an engineer for NASCAR so he can meet
some of the famous NASCAR drivers,’’ she
added with a laugh. “That type of work does
sound interesting. I’ll just have to wait and
see what opportunities are out there.’’
In the meantime, Launius and her
teammates will continue aiming for tennis
championships – and for the highest GPA
among UT Tyler athletic teams.