Haleigh Washington Wants to Win, Have Fun, and Study Aristotle

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

When Haleigh Washington decided she wanted to play volleyball in college, she turned to her father for advice on where she should go. There was one rule: She wanted him to point her towards the best volleyball school in the country.

So Alecs Washington told his daughter about Penn State, which had just won its fourth straight national title. She completely believed her dad – “I didn’t do any research after that, I was horrible about it,” Washington recalls – and years later, Haleigh is a national champion, an All-Big Ten selection, and one of the leaders on a 2016 Nittany Lions squad that is once again expected to be among the best in the nation.

And while she is a leader for a team that wants to win another championship this fall, Washington is making sure that she’s having fun. In fact, she’s having so much fun that Onward State called her the most fun athlete at Penn State last year (this is an assessment with which Washington disagrees, because she thinks “every athlete that goes to Penn State is having a blast doing what they’re doing”).

That’s not to say the junior middle blocker doesn’t take volleyball seriously. When asked about Penn State’s uncharacteristic early exit from the 2015 NCAA tournament – the team was eliminated by Hawaii in the regional semifinals – Washington says that the bad outweighed the good for the team last year, specifically referencing a number of “little mistakes that didn’t click,” like inconsistency. Washington says that the team has worked to correct those smaller issues as it prepares for 2016.

But Washington’s definition of fun is somewhat unique. She doesn’t think having fun means goofing around or being light-hearted. Rather, Washington thinks fun stems from a place of loving what you’re doing.

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

“I think fun in the context of volleyball comes from loving the game,” Washington says. “Because it’s so much easier to have fun when you’re in love with what you’re doing, and when you don’t love what you’re doing it’s really hard to enjoy doing it.

“I love what I study, I love philosophy, my family’s incredible, my friends that I surround myself with just make it easy to enjoy being me,” she adds.

Off the court, Washington has fun by majoring in philosophy and psychology. She’s able to rip through her favorite philosophers with the same ease that she lists her goals for the volleyball team this season.

“I’m a sucker for Aristotle,” Washington says. “I’m a sucker for the ancient philosophers, I love them. I love Aristotle and I love Socrates, I love Aristotle’s ethics, most importantly, because it talks about happiness and I think that that’s a big thing, especially when you’re in the college years.”

Once her volleyball career ends, Washington wants to go to Columbia University for graduate school. But for now, she hopes to have a bit more fun on the court. Oh, and she wants to win as many games as possible, because that’s how she defines success.

“If I want to be successful, I want to win,” Washington says. “That’s what success is for me, is, like, when you win. And don’t get me wrong, you can have a successful team and not win…but that isn’t successful enough for me. I want to win.”

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 24, 2016 at 9:51 am Leave a comment

Eric Ekobeni is Helping the Children of Cameroon

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When it came time for Eric Ekobeni ’16 to put his degree from Penn State World Campus to use, he decided to help people in a Cameroonian village. Ekobeni, a native of Cameroon, came to the United States as a refugee in 2002 and lives in Philadelphia with his family.

Ekobeni’s work in Cameroon involves coming up with a plan for a bilingual junior high school in Ndento. The project – upon which Ekobeni interned – was originally passed by local authorities in 2010, but the person who spearheaded the effort died the week that it was approved. Ekobeni estimates that the project is about two-thirds of the way done (see photos above), and is in need of additional funding. If you’re interested in donating, you can do that right here.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 22, 2016 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Joe Kovacs’ Sterling Performance Earns Him a Silver Medal

Photo via @JoeKovacsUSA

Photo via @JoeKovacsUSA

Joe Kovacs ’11 is an Olympic medalist. Kovacs, the reigning world champion in the shot put and one of two Nittany Lions to compete in the event in Rio, took home a silver medal on Thursday night thanks to a throw that went 21.78 meters. This is Kovacs’ first-career Olympic medal.

Kovacs’ medal is the first individual silver medal that any Penn Stater has won since 1976, when Michael Shine took home the silver in the men’s 400 meter hurdles.

Speaking to Frank Gogola of TeamUSA.org after the event, Kovacs called winning a silver “bittersweet,” but remarked that the feeling is “settling in” and applauded the gold medal winner, who set the Olympic record in the event and also hails from the United States.

Penn State’s other representative in the men’s shot put, Darrell Hill ’15, came in 23rd overall and did not advance past the qualifying round.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 19, 2016 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Miles Chamley-Watson and Monica Aksamit Earn Bronze Medals

A pair of Penn State fencing alumni picked up medals at the 2016 Olympic Games over the weekend. Miles Chamley-Watson ’13 and Monica Aksamit ’12 won bronze medals as members of the men’s foil team and the women’s sabre team.

Chamley-Watson earned his bronze on Friday when the U.S. took down Italy, 45-31, and the squad earned its first medal in the event since 1932. This was a rematch of the semifinals at the 2012 Olympics; all four American fencers who competed on Friday were on the 2012 team.

Aksamit won her medal on Saturday. The women’s sabre team also beat Italy, 45-30, and it marked the second bronze in a row for the United States in this event.

Both of these medals were significant for Penn State’s fencing program, as Chamley-Watson became the first American alumnus and Aksamit became the first female alumnus to medal.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 15, 2016 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

Pushups For the Troops

Photo via Joy Neal Feigles

Photo via Joy Neal Feigles

Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. To honor those fallen soldiers, a pair of Penn State alums held an event in which those in attendance participated in the 22 Push-up Challenge.

Ron ’58 and Joy Neal Feigles ’58 invited former All-American linebacker Bruce Bannon ’72 to a committee meeting for the 9/11 Heroes Run, which takes place in several locations and was founded in their hometown of Doylestown, Pa. Prior to the meeting, the Feigles, Bannon, and several other members of the Heroes Run committee went onto the Feigles’ front lawn and did 22 push-ups.

The Feigles were made aware of the challenge – which is growing in popularity on social media and has its participants do 22 push-ups for 22 days with the hopes of raising awareness for the military’s suicide rate – by one of their friends. More information on the 22 Push-up Challenge can be found on 22Kill.com.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

Do the Champley-Watson

Photo via USA Fencing

Photo via USA Fencing

Miles Chamley-Watson will compete Friday at the Rio Olympics for the U.S. fencing team in the quarterfinals of the men’s foil. If you watch, pay close attention, because Chamley-Watson may pull off a move that has the fencing community buzzing.


GIF via GoPro

As the former standout for Penn State’s fencing team told The New York Times, the move is called “The Champley-Watson.” The move requires putting your sword behind your head and making contact with your opponent, and it stems from Chamley-Watson’s desire to add some excitement to the sport – he told
the Times that he enjoys hearing the crowd go “ooooooh” when he does this because, “It’s really nice to bring that different type of feeling, a new phase to a sport that’s one of the oldest.” (He’s not all style over substance, of course: In 2013, he became the first American male to win a individual senior world championship.)

His favorite part, though, is how his opponents react to the move: “They’d rather get a yellow card than get embarrassed on live television. I don’t blame them.”

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 10, 2016 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

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