GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) announced its Inspirational Award winners for the 2012-13 academic year and Gallaudet University men’s cross country freshman Ivan Alfaro (Yakima, Wash.) was selected as one of two Inspirational Award honorees. Alfaro shares the stage with fellow cross country runner Christine Ilowiecki from SUNY Cobleskill, who was the other recipient.
The Inspirational Award is given annually to a student-athlete, coach or administrator who has endured personal hardship that has led to bravery and dedication within athletics.
Alfaro, who is deaf and legally blind, has Ushers Syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that is a leading cause of deaf-blindness due to a mutation of any of 10 genes. This is an incurable disease. Alfaro has not allowed his personal setback stop him from excelling for the Bison, as he was one of Gallaudet’s top runners as a freshman last season.
Alfaro helped lead the Bison to an eighth place finish at the NEAC Championships last fall, finishing 22nd overall individually with a time of 31:36 that placed him just one spot outside of the All-Conference Team. He then went on to represent Gallaudet at the 2012 NCAA Division III Mideast Regional, where he finished 257th out of 343 runners with a time of 30:17.
“Ivan is exactly that, an inspiration, not only to all Gallaudet student-athletes and coaches but to the many student-athletes he has encountered during his freshman year of athletics,” said Gallaudet cross country coach Mikaela Hudson.
“His dedication to his own success as a student-athlete would inspire anyone, however, I find that it is his dedication to his teammates and his compassion that is truly inspirational. Ivan achieved a 4.0 grade point average, two school records between cross country and track and field all the while putting his teammates success ahead of his own.”
This is the third straight year someone from Gallaudet has been selected with the NEAC Inspirational Award since the Bison joined the conference in 2010-11. Alfaro follows previous winners Kevin Cook (2010-11) and Lisa van der Mark (2011-12).
Alfaro is also a member of the Bison track and field team, where he accomplished multiple career-best finishes and also set the school record in the 3,000 meter run this past season. According to Hudson, who also coaches the track and field team, Alfaro was a big inspiration to his teammates in addition to being a strong contributor to the squad.
“He inspired three other deaf-blind student-athletes on our track teams to educate our other student-athletes on Ushers Syndrome, as well as share their experiences,” Hudson said.