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Toledo football launches Rocket Reading Program

The University of Toledo football team is launching the Rocket Football Reading Program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Rocket Football Reading Program is designed to encourage kids to read over the summer while working toward a special incentive. The reward for completing the program is one free ticket to the Toledo football home opener against Murray State Saturday, Sept. 14, as well as a special on-field recognition at the game.

There are three separate specialized categories: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth through eighth grade.

The deadline to complete and turn in the program is Friday, Sept. 6, at 5 p.m. at the Rocket Ticket Office in Savage Arena.

More information, including specifics for each age group, can be found on the Rocket Reading Program webpage.

For questions or further information, contact Adam Simpson at adam.simpson@utoledo.edu or 419.530.2482.

Toledo football announces ‘150 Rocket Challenge’ ticket promotion

The University of Toledo announced a new football season ticket initiative for the 2019 season, the “150 Rocket Challenge,” to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football.

The Rockets have set a goal to sell 150 new season ticket orders in the month of June. As part of the promotion, a limited number of Sideline A season tickets Section 25 will be available for only $150 until Sunday, June 30; that’s a savings of $45 per season ticket. Fans also can opt to purchase other season ticket packages with prices starting as low as $70.

New season ticket purchases in the month of June will be entered to win an autographed football from Head Coach Jason Candle. A new winner will be selected after every 25 season ticket packages sold for a total of six winners. Winners will be selected on Facebook live and Instagram stories.

All season tickets purchased by 5 p.m. Friday, June 7, will receive $10 in Gino dollars, redeemable at any Original Gino’s Pizza location in the Toledo area.

The University of Toledo is joining the celebration of the 150th anniversary of college football with special events throughout the 2019 season. The Rockets will host a 150th anniversary commemoration game in the Glass Bowl vs. Kent State Tuesday, Nov. 5. The first college football game was played Nov. 4, 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton. Football began at The University of Toledo in 1917.

For more information, go to the Toledo Rockets’ website, call 419.530.GOLD (4653), or stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office during business hours.

Men’s basketball coach signs contract extension through 2023-24 season

The University of Toledo and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk have reached an agreement that extends Kowalczyk’s contract through the 2023-24 season, UToledo Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike O’Brien announced today.

“Our men’s basketball program continues to thrive under Tod’s leadership,” O’Brien said. “His teams have consistently been among the elite programs in the Mid-American Conference, and we look forward to even greater success in the future. Just as importantly, Tod cares about his players as student-athletes, establishing an academic culture that is also at the top of the MAC.”

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk has signed a contract extension that will keep him on the court at UToledo through the 2023-24 season.

Kowalczyk recently completed his ninth season at Toledo and is third on the school’s all-time victory list with 167 wins. He has guided the Rockets to a 129-71 (.645) win-loss mark over the last six seasons, including a 25-8 record last season, the second most wins in school history. Kowalczyk also led Toledo to a school record 27-7 ledger in 2013-14.

During the 2018-19 season, Toledo captured its second consecutive MAC West Division title with a 13-5 league mark. The Rockets also earned a berth into the National Invitation Tournament.

“I am thankful for the opportunity given to me and my staff by President [Sharon L.] Gaber and Mike O’Brien,” Kowalczyk said. “We are extremely fortunate to have their support and leadership. I am proud of the program we have built here, and I am very excited about the prospects for next year’s team.”

In addition to winning on the court, the Rockets have achieved tremendous success in the classroom under Kowalczyk. Toledo earned the National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Award for 2018-19, the fourth time in the last six seasons the Rockets have been so honored. Also, Toledo’s most recent Academic Progress Rate score of 979 ranked second among the 12 MAC men’s basketball programs.

Prior to becoming UToledo’s head coach, Kowalczyk posted a 136-112 record in eight years as Wisconsin-Green Bay’s head coach. The Phoenix advanced to post-season play and notched back-to-back 22-win seasons in his last two seasons. In addition, every player who completed his eligibility while Kowalczyk was Green Bay’s head coach received a degree.

A native of DePere, Wis., Kowalczyk and his wife, Julie, have two children, Race (12) and Rose (10).

UPDATED: Rockets earn record 3.306 grade point average spring semester

This story was originally posted May 17 and updated June 3.

When it was announced two weeks ago that University of Toledo student-athletes had earned a school-record grade point average of 3.294 in the 2019 spring semester, Vice President and Director of Athletics Mike O’Brien was elated.

O’Brien recently received even better news. Following the posting of several additional grades, the Rockets’ final semester GPA checked in at 3.306, pushing the record even higher.

“I was very happy that our student-athletes achieved a record 3.294 GPA last spring, so you can imagine how I felt when I learned that we actually were above a 3.3,” O’Brien said. “In the sports world, we often put a lot of focus on numbers and statistics, so there is something significant about breaking the 3.3 mark. I know there probably aren’t any national records kept in this area, but I would guess that very few universities have ever had an athletic department earn a grade point average above a 3.3. Our student-athletes should be extremely proud of this achievement, as should all of us in Rocket Nation.”

In addition to being the highest semester GPA ever for the Rockets, the 3.306 GPA is the ninth consecutive semester in which UToledo student-athletes have earned a semester GPA of 3.2 or higher.

Women’s soccer recorded the highest team semester GPA in school history with a mark of 3.792, breaking the previous team record of 3.780 set by women’s golf in spring 2017.
Women’s swimming and diving (3.661), men’s golf (3.611) and women’s cross country (3.605) were each above the 3.6 mark, and four other sports cracked 3.5.

“Congratulations to all of our student-athletes and to women’s soccer for setting the highest team semester GPA in Toledo history,” Ericka Lavender, associate athletic director for academic services, said. “None of this would be possible without the support and great work of my staff, head coaches and administration. We would also like to thank our faculty and staff for all of their tremendous efforts on behalf of our student-athletes.”

Other highlights and academic notes from this past semester:

• A record 51 student-athletes earned president’s list honors with a perfect 4.0 GPA. The previous record was 49 in spring 2016.

• 12 student-athletes competed in their sport while enrolled in graduate school courses.

• 46.9 percent (173 of 368) earned a spot on the dean’s list by garnering at least a 3.50 GPA.

• 73.4 percent (271 of 369) made the honor roll by securing a 3.00 GPA or higher.

• 64 percent of Toledo student-athletes are enrolled in either the College of Business and Innovation, College of Engineering, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, or the College of Arts and Letters.

• An additional 27 percent Toledo student-athletes are enrolled in either the Judith Herb College of Education, College of Health and Human Services, or the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Toledo 2019 Spring Semester Team GPAs
Overall Department GPA: 3.306 (school record)

Baseball — 3.173
Men’s Basketball — 2.958
Women’s Basketball — 3.182
Men’s Cross Country — 3.053
Women’s Cross Country — 3.609
Football — 2.935
Men’s Golf — 3.611
Women’s Golf — 3.528
Softball — 3.526
Women’s Soccer —3.793*
Women’s Swimming and Diving — 3.661
Men’s Tennis — 3.481
Women’s Tennis — 3.558
Women’s Track and Field — 3.526
Women’s Volleyball — 3.492

*Team record

Track and field athletes compete at NCAA Preliminaries

University of Toledo senior Katie Dewey concluded her weekend Saturday at the NCAA East Track and Field Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla. She finished in 40th place in the shot put with a throw of 14.88 meters.

The meet served as the final competition for the Rockets in their 2018-19 campaign.

Senior Katie Dewey finished 40th in the shot put and 26th in the discus at the NCAA East Regional.

“Overall, we had another strong season,” Head Coach Linh Nguyen said. “We’re losing some really great seniors and appreciate all their contributions to our program. At the same time, we have some great, young talent returning, as well as coming in, and our future looks bright.”

Dewey was the first Toledo thrower to compete in the NCAA East Prelims since Kyesha Neal in 2016. She also placed 26th in the discus Friday with a throw of 49.24m meters.

“Katie came down here for the first time ever and competed really well,” Nguyen said. “She finished about 20 spots above her seed in the discus and threw well during the shot. It was a great way to cap her Toledo career.”

Senior Petronela Simiuc competed in Jacksonville Thursday and placed 47th in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4:40.28. The race was run with temperatures in the 90s and high levels of humidity.

“Petronela had a tough race this week,” Nguyen said. “She didn’t feel very good at the start, and I think the record temps here may have played a role in that. She still had a great season and should be proud.”

Petronella Simiuc represented Toledo in the 1,500 meters Thursday at the NCAA East Regional.

Football team earns top academic score in MAC for fourth time in last six years

The NCAA recently released its annual Academic Progress Rate (APR) figures for the four-year period from 2014-15 and 2017-18, and The University of Toledo football team posted an impressive score of 981. No school in the Mid-American Conference had a higher APR score than Toledo.

This is the fourth time in the last six years that the Toledo football team has led the MAC in APR. This year’s 981 mark tied the team record set in 2017. The Rockets have posted at least a 970 APR in each of the past six years.

Head Football Coach Jason Candle posed for a photo with some of the 21 Rockets who graduated this spring.

“I could not be more proud of our student-athletes,” said Head Coach Jason Candle. “We always stress the importance of pursuing academic success with the same intensity required to play championship-level football. Our APR score reflects our student-athletes’ relentless commitment to our academic goals and upholding our University’s proud tradition.”

APR is a gauge of every team’s academic performance at a given point in time. Points are awarded on a semester-by-semester basis for eligibility, retention and graduation of scholarship student-athletes. 1,000 is considered a perfect score. Sports that fail to reach the cut point (930) can be penalized with the loss of scholarships, practice restrictions and post-season bans.

The APR data released this month is a cumulative figure taken from the 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

Toledo track and field lands two in NCAA East Preliminary

The University of Toledo women’s track and field team will send junior Petronela Simiuc and senior Katie Dewey to the NCAA East Preliminary Round Thursday through Saturday, May 23-25, in Jacksonville, Fla.

“They’re both really good athletes and worked really hard this year and obviously earned their way there,” said Head Coach Linh Nguyen. “Katie’s actually the second thrower in Toledo history that’s qualified for two events. She’s been doing really well this season and has a chance to throw even farther down there. Petronela was here last year and made it to the quarterfinal round. I think she’s in a little bit better shape and more confident this year, so I think it’s very possible for her to make it through to finals in Austin, Texas.

“For us to again have representation from different event groups just shows that we’re a well-rounded team, and that it’s possible for everybody on the team to come and achieve at a high level.”

Simiuc returns to the prelims in the 1500m after placing second at the Mid-American Conference Championships with a time of 4:27.86. At last year’s preliminary round, Simiuc took 20th in the quarterfinal with a time of 4:28.49. She is 10 seconds from her personal best of 4:17.50, which she set in the first round of the prelims last season.

Dewey will compete in the shot put and discus events after leading the Rockets in the throws category. During the regular season, Dewey tallied 10 top-five performances in the shot put and discus combined. At the Hillsdale GINA Relays, Dewey posted personal bests of 15.50m in the shot put and 49.92m in the discus to win both events. Dewey is the first Toledo thrower since Kyesha Neal in 2016 to qualify for two events at the NCAA East Prelim.

Forty-eight individuals for each event and 24 relay teams qualify for competition at each preliminary site. Combined events are not contested at the preliminary sites. Twelve individuals from each individual event as well as 12 relay teams will advance from both preliminary round sites to the championships.

This season’s NCAA Championships will be held Wednesday through Saturday, June 5-8, in Austin, Texas.

2019 NCAA East Preliminary Round
Jacksonville, Fla.

Thursday, May 23
5:30 p.m. — 1500m — First Round
Petronela Simiuc

Friday, May 24
Noon — Discus — First Round
Katie Dewey

Saturday, May 25
5:15 p.m. — Shot Put — First Round
Katie Dewey

6:30 p.m. — 1500m — Quarterfinal

Three Rocket graduates turning pro

Seniors Natcha Daengpiem, Pimchanok Kawil and Pinyada Kuvanun each enjoyed memorable careers with The University of Toledo women’s golf program. Now the trio will test their skills on the professional golf circuit.

Daengpiem, Kawil and Kuvanun each played a key role in the Rockets posting a 299.01 stroke average in the recently completed 2018-19 season. That mark was just shy of the 2015-16 squad’s school-record mark of 298.3. Toledo also registered a second-place finish in the Mid-American Conference Championships for the fifth time in the last seven years.

Kuvanun, who finished her collegiate career with a 73.7 stroke average, is planning to participate in a few Monday LPGA qualifiers, as well as additional professional tournaments this summer in the United States before heading to the LPGA Q School in August.

Kawil finished third in school history with her 75.6 average and is planning to join Kuvanun at the LPGA Q School after competing in Thailand LPGA events this summer.

Daengpiem ranks seventh in school history with a 77.1 career average and is expecting to compete in Asian tour events in Taiwan and other Asian countries this summer.

Toledo baseball coach steps down

Cory Mee announced May 20 he is stepping down from his position as the head baseball coach at The University of Toledo to pursue other opportunities.

Mee had served as the Rockets’ head coach since 2004.

Cory Mee served 16 seasons as Toledo’s head baseball coach.

“It has been a privilege to be the head baseball coach at The University of Toledo for the past 16 years,” Mee said. “It’s given me the opportunity to be around so many great people. I want to thank all of my former players, assistant coaches, the athletic department staff, and all of those people that supported Toledo baseball over the years for their efforts in making my experience here a memorable one.”

“We thank Cory for his many years of service and dedication to our baseball program,” Vice President and Director of Athletics Mike O’Brien said. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

In his 16 years as Toledo’s head baseball coach, Mee had a record of 366-513-1, including 195-215 in Mid-American Conference play. This past season the Rockets were 17-36 (4-21 MAC). Mee’s best seasons came in 2010 when the Rockets went 34-22 (19-8 MAC) and in 2012 when Toledo finished in first place in the MAC West Division with a 19-8 league mark. His Rockets also came in second in the West Division in 2009, 2010 and 2015.

O’Brien said Assistant Coach Nick McIntyre will serve as interim coach until a new head coach is hired.

Rockets eliminated from NCAA Tourney on walk-off homer

The Toledo softball team battled to the very end, but saw its dream season come to an end on a two-run walk-off home run in a 2-0 loss to Illinois May 18 at the NCAA Lexington Regional in Kentucky.

Sophomore Erin Hunt pitched a brilliant game, shutting down the Illini until Kiana Sherlund belted a 2-0 pitch just over the left-field wall with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Sophomore pitcher Erin Hunt held Illinois scoreless until the final inning of Saturday’s afternoon game.

The loss ended the season and the Cinderella story for Toledo (29-28), which made its first appearance in the NCAA Championships since 1992 after winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament as a No. 7 seed last weekend.

With the win, Illinois advances to an elimination game vs. Virginia Tech May 18. The winner of that game will face No. 14 seed Kentucky Sunday, May 19.

“We just talked in the locker room about how proud we are of this team and how far they’ve come,” said Head Coach Joe Abraham. “Once again, this team showed they can play with anybody, including the top Power Five teams in the country. We were right there in the seventh inning, and Erin was dealing. Illinois had to earn everything, and while it stinks to lose, you can live with it. Erin is upset, but she was playing in Division II last year and now she’s shutting out Illinois and holding down Kentucky fairly well.”

For nearly the entire game, Hunt had Illinois off balance, striking out six and forcing the Illini hitters to swing at tough pitches. She worked out of jams in the third, fourth and sixth, but Illinois never really hit her hard until Sherlund’s line-drive homer.

“I’m living every little girl’s dream,” Hunt said. “I don’t take anything for granted. Every pitch, I’m happy to be here, lucky to be here. As Coach Joe said, I came from D-II and never thought I’d be on this stage. I looked at D-I schools, but no one ever bit. Coach Joe was actually the only coach who did, and without him I wouldn’t be playing college softball. I’m just taking it all in and enjoying the experience.”

Toledo had its best chances to score in the third and fourth innings when it put two runners on each time, but the Rockets were never able to get the hit they needed to get on the scoreboard.

Despite ending the season with a tough loss, Abraham said an experience like this will be one he and his team will remember for the rest of their lives.

“It’s already sunk in for me,” Abraham said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. As it sinks in for them, it’s going to be pretty cool thing to look back on in the upcoming months and years.”