The following article, by Jim Egan BA ’82, is just an excerpt—for the full Athletics update, read the story in the Spring 2024 Forester online.

Have you ever considered, as alumni, how often you look back on your college days and ponder how much things have changed? As a proud alumnus and former sports information director at CUC, I tended to think of athletics as a slowly evolving organism (emphasis on “slowly”). Then came the day not long ago when I said to myself, “What was I thinking?” realizing how much has changed in a short amount of time.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit our world in March 2020 and upended everything in our daily lives, including CUC’s athletics program. Two of our track athletes, Kayla Armstrong BA ’22 and Simone Wilson BA ’21, for instance, were in North Carolina preparing to compete in the NCAA III Indoor Nationals when the meet was abruptly canceled. The competition was never held, although both athletes eventually earned All-American status and would go on to further successes in subsequent years. The pandemic derailed a promising season for men’s volleyball; following a 4-22 campaign in the inaugural season of 2019, the 2020 Cougars were owners of a seven-match winning streak and a 14-3 overall record when the curtain rang down on the remainder of the season. The baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field, and tennis teams were also unable to complete their spring seasons, with practice and gameplay the following fall also severely affected.

When intercollegiate athletics was given the green light to resume, we saw some unusual occurrences, such as an extra year of eligibility granted to student-athletes and a spring 2021 season of fall sports (including a three-game football schedule). Sports would eventually return to their normal times of year, but several changes were still to come in River Forest.

Athletic communications director Kayla McCloud BA '21 (right) and former communications assistant Sydney Paulauskis-Lauher BA '22 (left) strengthened CUC Athletics' digital visibility in recent years.

In 2022, a new women’s sport was added. Derived from traditional cheerleading, STUNT made its debut, buoyed by the NCAA recognizing it as an officially sanctioned “emerging sport.” For those unfamiliar, a STUNT match consists of two teams who execute skills-based routines in such categories as partner stunts, jumps and tumbling, pyramids and tosses, and team routines. Under the direction of head coach Cheetah Farrar, who is completing her first year at CUC, this 13-member squad is fast finding a place in the hearts of Cougar fans.

While the newer sports find their niche, CUC has also welcomed an older sport back to the fold. Both the women’s and men’s tennis teams suffered from a combination of dwindling player numbers, a vacant coach’s position and finally the pandemic. The coaching dilemma was resolved in 2021 with the hiring of Lenno Lasn. Since then, the teams have resumed competitive schedules, and the roster numbers continue to increase. A sign of encouragement came when the men’s team played in the 2023 NACC tournament, and we look forward to these improvements reflected consistently in future win-loss records.

Not to be forgotten on our list of changes are a recent facility face-lifts. The tennis teams’ resurrection was boosted by a resurfacing of the courts. The softball field was refurbished, and a press box was installed to protect game staff from the elements. The baseball field’s latest improvement was a branded turf halo around home plate. And teams playing in Cougar Stadium are benefitting from a new, state-of-the-art video board. Improvements on the horizon include a new roof for Geiseman Gym in the summer of 2024 and a resurfacing and re-turfing for Cougar Stadium, planned for the summer of 2025.