UNC Club Sports Dominating Without Recognition

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Two members of the Taekwondo club sparring.

The start buzzer sounds. Alex Hunter, already panting from the previous round, slowly makes his descent toward his opponent. Hands up, leg up, guard ready. This is not the first time Alex has plunged deep into high-level taekwondo tournaments, but it is the first time doing so with his country’s name on his back. Kicks are landed, the buzzer sounds, and Hunter again puts points on the board.

“I went to my first international tournament in competed the US Open which was really cool,” Hunter said.

“I’m going to be honest. It was the biggest competition I’ve ever done. Normally, if you do an in-state competition and you’re looking at your division, usually at most you’ll have like eight people. You’ll fight, you know, a maximum of four rounds. When you bump up to a national level competition like collegiates, right now, I think there are like 400 competitors registered, but in the US Open, there were 1400 competitors. 55 in my bracket alone.” he said.

Hunter is not the only skilled martial artist who casually walks the halls of UNC, in fact, he is the leader of a whole team of them. Hunter is the president of the UNC club taekwondo team, which has been quietly dominating within the colligate scene.

“Last year when we went, we came home with one first place, one second place, one third place, and one-fifth place… …It was our first time going, or it was the first time UNC competed in collegiate taekwondo in years since before COVID,” said Hunter. “So, it was very new for all of us but everyone who went had a really good time, and lucky we walked away with metals. We didn’t come out empty-handed.”

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At the same time that Hunter was competing with elite competition from all over the world, Chasen Marinoff was leading the UNC club tennis team through the gauntlets of collegiate tennis.

“We thought we were going to get killed,” Marinoff said.

1,000 miles away from the practice courts in Greeley, Marinoff braves an unfamiliar situation with her team, a collegiate tennis invitational. While some of the other major sports programs at the University of Northern Colorado had been floundering, the UNC tennis club had slowly been building up its prestige under the leadership of Marinoff.

“I’ve been the president of the club tennis team for two years now, and I’ve been an officer on the team for four years. Right now there are 35 members. It’s my 5th year on the team and I feel like we’ve had a max of like 15 to 18 most years. It’s sick,” she said.

Growth within the club according to Nickolas Gonzalez, the vice president of the club, was due to the exceptional leadership of Marinoff.

“She has done a great job of recruiting new members and making the club bigger. We went from around 15 people in her first year as president to around 30+ people who signed up. We have also had the opportunity to send multiple teams out of state to compete in tournaments, which is not something that would happen too often before her. She has been great at setting up fundraisers and team bonding and makes sure everyone feels welcomed and included,” Gonzalez said.

Now, Marinoff finds herself locked in a competition full of unknowns, surrounded by the team she has helped develop.

“I was a little bit nervous because I’ve never traveled that far while being in charge of that many people, I think we took 12 people. Especially because some of the people were pretty new to the team so I didn’t really know what to expect as far as their personalities or how they would act while traveling,” Marinoff said. “I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and knowing that California has a much bigger & usually better tennis scene than Colorado kind of had me thinking the competition would be really good and maybe much better than me,”

Despite the unfamiliar stage with relatively new teammates and the overall unease competing under the pressures of an invitational, the UNC club tennis team rallied behind their leader. Marinoff and her team found themselves in a podium spot for their division.

“We got third place in our bracket, which was super exciting,” she said.

Between Hunter and Marinoff, the UNC club’s sports scene has no lack of skilled, driven leaders, leading winning teams. Yet, their programs almost completely fly under the radar compared to some of the other programs at UNC.

“I feel like when we’re going out to tournaments and consistently coming back with, you know, multiple top three placements at these tournaments and we don’t get any recognition from the school it’s a little disappointing. But we try to keep ourselves positive about it regardless,” Hunter said.

Marinoff shared a similar story with the attendance of tennis matches being less than stellar, and on some nights competing with no fans at all.

“We honestly don’t get much student involvement from people outside of the team unless they are friends of players. Honestly, I don’t really think it’s a UNC thing, tennis is not a sport that gets a lot of attention in the US really,” Marinoff said.

Whatever the reason for the lack of club love, Marinoff and Hunter and their teams plan on continuing to dominate across the colligate level.

“We’re taking four members out to collegiates this year and so hopefully, we’ll have some more people ranking up on this national-level competition… … and this year we are going to be much more prepared for it. So, I think we are going to do even better this year,” Hunter said.

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