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Winning on Both Sides
Two-Time East Division Player of Year Puts Academics First

Beth Launius
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 priority.

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.

Academic Standout
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 degree program.’’

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 education.’’

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 studies.

“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 competition.’’

Quiet Competitor
playing tennisA 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.’’

Campus Life
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.’’

Looking Ahead
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.

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