VU Women support Race for the Cure

At 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, you would have expected Vanderbilt students to be sound asleep, dreaming happily of the Commodores' 37-13 stomping of the Richmond Spiders on Saturday night. Not so for the women's basketball team. Instead of sleeping in, they were volunteers at the Susan G. Komen's Foundation Annual Race for the Cure in support of breast cancer research.

"It's something I had done with my teams in Cincinnati, and I thought it was a really a good experience for them, especially because it affects so many women," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb on Sunday.

Although Balcomb had been interested in getting the team involved with the event ever since she arrived in Nashville, this was the first year that the date of the race meshed well with the busy schedule of a D1 basketball team. Since the basketball pre-season is still several weeks away, the timing was perfect this year.

"I just think it's a really good cause, and because it affects so many women, our players might relate to that either in the past or in the future," Balcomb said.

Some of the players have already seen the effects of breast cancer in their own lives. Junior guard Caroline Williams' grandmother died of the disease when Caroline was in the fifth grade. Others have friends whose loved ones have battled the disease.

Caroline and the other players were assigned to information tables prior to the race, where they were kept busy handing out pink cards for race participants to complete and pin to the back of their t-shirts. One stack of cards read, "Memory of", and the other "Celebration of ".

"It's good to be out here to support everybody," said Caroline, "both the celebrations and the memories."

Other people close to the basketball team who have been more directly affected were at the race, too. Eleven years ago, Joanna Fitzpatrick, a board member of the Commodore Crew and a volunteer in the media room at basketball and football games, got the news that every woman fears. After surgery, radiation and years of followup treatment, she donned the pink t-shirt worn by breast cancer survivors for the 5K run/walk.

After supporting the women's basketball team for years as a loyal fan, it was particularly gratifying to her to see them turn the tables and come out to support a cause that's so near and dear to her.

"I think it's wonderful that they come out and support this," Fitzpatrick said before the race. "It has to make you feel wonderful that people care."

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Sitting: Amy Malo, Tina Wirth, Nicole Jules, Cherish Stringfield
Standing: Assistant Coaches Stephanie Norman and Kristin Schneider

Sitting: Holly Rogers, Jen Risper, Rachel Brockman, Dee Davis
Standing: Justin VanOrman, Director of Video Operations; Lori Alexander, Director of Sports Operations

Sitting:Liz Sherwood and Caroline Willams
Standing: Erica Grimaldi, Kornell Battle, Director Basketball Operations; unidentified helper; Hillary Hager, Graduate Assistant

Head Coach Melanie Balcomb

Assistant Coach Vicky Picott

Erica Grimaldi and Dee Davis

Amy Malo, Tina Wirth, and Nicole Jules

Holly Rogers and Jen Risper

Amy Malo, Tina Wirth, Joanna Fitzpatrick, Nicole Jules, Cherish Stringfield

Commodore Crew Board Members Julie Popp and Joanna Fitzpatrick

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Photos copyright 2005 by Whitney D for Top Stories