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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.

UToledo scholar awarded Fulbright to Sudan for next academic year

Dr. Asma Abdel Halim’s quarter century of research questioning the breach and progress of Muslim women’s human rights is personal.

Her own life experience fuels her life’s work to protect Muslim women worldwide for generations to come.

Abdel Halim

The next leg of her journey takes her back to her native Sudan, a place Abdel Halim describes as “a country that has always subjected women to a version of Islamic law that is fashioned according to the political mood of the government.”

The prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar program selected The University of Toledo faculty member focused on women’s rights under religious laws to travel to Sub-Saharan Africa for the 2019-20 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar.

Abdel Halim, associate professor in the UToledo Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, and director of the Center of the Muslim Woman, will study the history of gender effects on Sudanese law, produce ideas for reform, and teach a class on gender and the law at her alma mater, the University of Khartoum.

“As a Muslim woman joining other Muslim women in researching Islamic laws and critiquing centuries of patriarchal dominance, I find it necessary to explore women’s history, rights and developments because I am determined to address gendered laws and how to combat their effects,” Abdel Halim said.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Scholar program within the U.S. Department of State has worked to improve intercultural relations and diplomacy through national fellowship. The program in Sudan was suspended in 1992 after the U.S. issued an embargo on relations with the country and was reinstated two years ago after President Trump lifted U.S. sanctions.

“As Dr. Asma Abdel Halim travels around the world sharing her knowledge, insight and experience, she helps raise awareness about problems and protections of women living under Muslim laws,” Dr. Sharon Barnes, associate professor and chair in the UToledo Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, said. “Her outstanding scholarship consistently brings great prestige to The University of Toledo. While we will miss her at home, we are proud the Fulbright program has recognized her forward-thinking work on international women’s issues.”

Abdel Halim, a faculty member at UToledo for 15 years, graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Khartoum with a bachelor’s degree in 1980 and a master’s degree in 1988.

“As a student there, I never encountered gender in any of the courses,” Abdel Halim said. “My experience studying and teaching in the United States proved that gender as a tool of analysis is vital in studying law.”

Abdel Halim, who earned her Ph.D. at Ohio University, said actions of extremists lead many to question the tenets of Islam and the religion’s commitment to equality.

“Religious interpretations are being misused to strengthen conservative stances regarding the curbing of human rights,” Abdel Halim said. “Old traditions of favoring men because of their participation in war lead to the subjugation of women to the authority of male guardians.”

Abdel Halim plans to write a book after accessing old Shari’a sources, such as treaties written by scholars centuries ago and still considered the main source of Islamic rules today. She also plans to delve into the era of Mahdiyya uprisings and older archives.

“The intersection of religion and gender seems to be working against women where legislation is concerned,” Abdel Halim said. “Ideological traditions find safety in regression to old traditions rather than in change. I plan to follow the historical events of the recent history of the Sudan and look closely to the history of women in the country and understand why developments in legislation go back and forth. I also will examine how the intersection of gender and religion seems to always end in the defeat of women’s rights in favor of archaic religious norms.”

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

Huntington, UToledo partner to create new Opportunity Scholarship

A new scholarship made possible with a generous gift from Huntington Bank will power opportunity for The University of Toledo students to achieve their educational goals.

Sharon Speyer, president of Huntington’s Northwest Ohio Region and a member of the UToledo Board of Trustees, presented UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber with a $200,000 check May 20 to create the Huntington Bank Opportunity Scholarship.

Sharon Speyer, president of Huntington’s Northwest Ohio Region and a member of the UToledo Board of Trustees, left, presented UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber with a $200,000 check to create the Huntington Bank Opportunity Scholarship.

The scholarship will be awarded over the next four years to degree-seeking undergraduate students based on financial need.

“Access to knowledge is something we should aspire for all of our children,” Speyer said. “Having said that, the cost of education can be a barrier for some. We wanted to create a program, with the University, to provide more opportunities to potential students to study and learn at this fine institution.”

“This investment by Huntington in our students will have a powerful impact on not only the individuals awarded the scholarship, but also on the community we both serve as these individuals graduate and become the future leaders in our region,” Gaber said. “I want to thank Huntington for our strong partnership and its ongoing support of UToledo.”

With the gift, Huntington has now given more than $2 million to UToledo since 1975 in support of academic, athletic and student affairs programming.

The first Huntington Bank Opportunity Scholarships worth a total of $50,000 were awarded to 40 students for the upcoming 2019-20 academic year.

Students are eligible for consideration if they demonstrate financial need after completing the Free Application for Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, and after completing Office of Student Financial Aid’s general scholarship application. Preference will be given to residents of Lucas County.

Inexpensive agricultural waste product can remove microcystin from water, new UToledo research finds

Scientists at The University of Toledo have discovered that rice husks can effectively remove microcystin from water, a finding that could have far-reaching implications for communities along the Great Lakes and across the developing world.

An abundant and inexpensive agricultural byproduct, rice husks have been investigated as a water purification solution in the past. However, this is the first time they have been shown to remove microcystin, the toxin released by harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, right, Dr. Dragan Isailovic, center, and doctoral student David Baliu-Rodriguez have published a paper, along with UToledo graduates, Dr. Dilrukshika Palagama and Dr. Amila Devasurendra, about using rice husks to remove microcystin from water.

The results of the study were recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“Delivering safe water is critical, and finding an economically viable solution to deliver safe water to people all over the world is going to be really important. The ability of this simple material to be powerful enough to address this issue is impressive,” said Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.

The research, led by Kirchhoff and Dr. Dragan Isailovic, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, used organic rice husks that were treated with hydrochloric acid and heated to 250 degrees Celsius.

The rice husks were then dispersed in a series of water samples collected from Lake Erie during the 2017 harmful algal bloom to measure how much of the toxin they could absorb.

UToledo researchers say rice husks are effective at removing microcystin from water. In addition, the rice husks are economical and, after soaking up microcystin, can be heated to destroy the toxins and create silica particles that can be used for other applications.

Researchers found the rice husks removed more than 95 percent of microcystin MC-LR — the most common type found in Lake Erie — in concentrations of up to 596 parts per billion (ppb). Even in concentrations approaching 3,000 ppb, more than 70 percent of the MC-LR was removed, and other types of MCs were removed as well.

“We looked at the removal of microcystins from real environmental samples and the material has performed really well,” Isailovic said. “We are talking about extremely high concentrations of microcystins originating from cyanobacterial cells. Normally during summer, we have much, much lower concentrations in Lake Erie.”

Devasurendra

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends a 10-day drinking water guideline that young children not drink water containing more than a total of 0.3 ppb of microcystin and school-age children and adults not drink water containing more than a total of 1.6 ppb of microcystin.

Beyond their effectiveness, rice husks have a number of other appealing attributes. They’re cheap — researchers paid $14.50 for half a cubic foot, and buying in bulk would bring that price down significantly — and they’re able to be repurposed.

Heating microcystin-laden rice husks to 560 degrees Celsius destroys the toxins and produces silica particles, which can be used in other applications.

Palagama

The researchers are hopeful their discovery could be scaled up beyond the lab to develop a more environmentally friendly method for treating water that has been contaminated by harmful algal blooms or cheap but effective filtration systems for the developing world.

“We could potentially use this readily available material to purify water before it even gets into Lake Erie,” Isailovic said. “There are engineering solutions that need to be done, but one of our dreams is to apply what we develop in our labs to provide safe drinking water.”

Other authors of the study were doctoral students Dr. Dilrukshika Palagama and Dr. Amila Devasurendra, who first proposed looking at rice husks as a way to remove microcystin and have since graduated from UToledo, and current doctoral student David Baliu-Rodriguez.

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.

Huntington gift funds new UToledo scholarship

The University of Toledo and Huntington Bank will announce a new scholarship program to power opportunity for students to achieve their educational goals.

Huntington will present UToledo with a $200,000 check to create the Huntington Bank Opportunity Scholarship Monday, May 20, at 1 p.m. in Libbey Hall.

The scholarship will be awarded over the next four years to degree-seeking undergraduate students based on financial need.

The first scholarships worth a total of $50,000 were awarded to 40 students for the upcoming 2019-20 academic year.

With the gift, Huntington has given more than $2 million to UToledo since 1975 in support of academic, athletic and student affairs programming.

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.”