Walking the Walk
Special ceremonies allow Ole Miss student athletes to graduate with all the recognition they deserve.
Written by Abigail Meisel | Illustrated by Frank Estrada | Photographs Provided By OleMiss Athletics
Even if you’re a star athlete, it’s hard to be in two places at once. Every year, a handful of Ole Miss athletes face the disappointing news that a major competition falls on graduation day, which means they’ll be traveling during commencement. Although they don’t get to walk with their peers, the university does make sure they get the same pomp and circumstance — at special graduation ceremonies held just for athletes.
“Part of their scholarship is that they have to compete in all their events,” said Jon Nance, assistant director of Athletic Academic Operations. “We want them to have the experience of an Ole Miss graduation, so we hold a special ceremony just for athletes.”
Nance and Jennifer Saxon, associate director for Student Athletic Enhancement, organized two special graduations for athletes May 13 and May 17 in the auditorium of the FedEx Academic Success Center. The speakers at both ceremonies included Ross Bjork, former vice chancellor of Intercollegiate Athletics; Bob Baker, senior associate athletic director of Student-Athlete Development; Chancellor Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance; and Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
Beau Briggs of the Ole Miss men’s golf team and his teammate Josh Seiple were playing in the Southwestern Regional Golf Championships at Stanford during the second weekend in May. They attended the May 17 ceremony along with Floyd Allen, who played wide receiver for the football team and was at an NFL tryout during the May 11 commencement.
“There were just three of us students but Ross Bjork gave a really good speech, and I was glad that Jon Nance was there,” Briggs said. “He’s been my friend and mentor throughout my time at Ole Miss.”
According to Jennifer Saxon, who does the lion’s share of organizing the student-athlete graduations, one advantage to them is that they’re very intimate because of the small number of attendees.
“These students have worked so hard to represent the University of Mississippi at such high level,” Saxon said. “We want to say thank you to the students and their families.”
May 13, 2019, Athlete Graduates
School of Applied Sciences
Kylan Becker of Miami, Florida, was an outfielder on the women’s softball team and earned her exercise science degree in August. She was chosen to play on the USA Softball Women’s National Team and competed in the All-Star series in Tokyo in June 2018. She is an all-time leader in career triples at Ole Miss.
School of Business
Anthony Aresco of Stoneham, Massachusetts, was a graduate manager for the women’s softball team and graduated with a master’s in business administration in August.
Alex Enright of Wheaton, Illinois, was a javelin thrower on the women’s track and field team and is the current Ole Miss record holder in javelin. She majored in managerial finance and was named one of the University of Mississippi’s Who’s Who for 2019.
Annika Larsson of Uppsala, Sweden, was a thrower on the women’s track and field team. She graduated with a degree in general business and was named Student-Athlete of the Month in August 2017. In Ole Miss women’s track and field history, she ranks fourth for the hammer throw and sixth for the weight throw.
Trace Walters of Hattiesburg was a student manager for the track and field team. He graduated from the School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in managerial finance and entered the MBA program at UM this summer.
School of Engineering
Anna Braswell of Mobile, Alabama, was a distance runner in track and field and a member of the women’s cross-country team. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in geological engineering and was a member of the first two Ole Miss women’s cross-country teams to qualify for NCAA track and field championships in 2018 and 2019.
Mark Robertson from Pensacola, Florida, was on the men’s cross-country team and is a track and field distance runner. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Robertson is the current Ole Miss record holder in the 10K.
School of Liberal Arts
Anna Elkin of Carrollton, Texas, was a distance runner in track and field and a member of the women’s cross-country team. She is the current Ole Miss record holder in the outdoor 3K.
May 17, 2019, Athlete Graduates
School of Liberal Arts
Beau Briggs of Covington, Louisiana, majored in economics. He led the golf team during the 2018-2019 academic year and this spring was on the Arnold Palmer Cup Watchlist of NCAA golfers. He began working on his master’s in finance at Vanderbilt University this summer.
School of General Studies.
Floyd Allen of Houston, Texas, was a wide receiver on the football team and Student-Athlete of the Month in December 2018. He graduated from the School of General Studies in August where he was a triple major in African American studies, psychology and education.
Josh Simple of Castle Rock, Colorado, played on the golf team and earned his bachelor’s degree in the School of General Studies in August. He posted five top-10 finishes during his career at Ole Miss.
Athlete Graduation Gallery: