Athletic teams routinely make adjustments at halftime that turn a deficit into a big win.
However, that generally doesn’t happen with academic research presentations.
But six senior students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University turned a potential loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic into three award-winning presentations, with some help from a quick-thinking adviser and a CSB alumna who helped them all out.
The CSB/SJU integrative science capstone projects swept the top three spots for Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards at the Northland Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. It was the first time that CSB and SJU students swept the top three spots.
The awards, announced April 28, included:
- First place: Milo Ambord (Wausau, Wisconsin), Grace Baker (Maple Grove, Minnesota) and Eryn Hauch (Maple Grove, Minnesota), “The Predictive Relationship Between Training Impulse, Sleep Quality and Sleep Quantity;”
- Second place: Joshua Miller (Prior Lake, Minnesota) and Jake Reding (Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota), “The Relationship Between Sleep Quality and Quantity and Muscle Readiness, Stress and Overall Health in College Athletes;”
- Third place: Mac Berglove (Elk River, Minnesota), “Changes in Training Load and Perceived Health Across a Division III Women’s Basketball Season.”
Back in spring 2020, the students originally proposed their projects to Mary Stenson, associate professor of exercise science and sports studies at CSB/SJU and their faculty adviser.
“We thought we would be in labs and collecting data,” Stenson said. “We had some pretty interesting projects planned.”
But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit Central Minnesota, and access to the labs wasn’t available in the fall for the students to collect the data they needed.
“We just had to do a full 180,” said Stenson, who laughed when the athletic analogy was mentioned. “As a matter of fact, we’re hoping to avoid doing that (making adjustments) as much as possible, those late-in-the-game changes.
“Over the summer, I tried to figure out if it was going to be possible for them to do any data collection. Once I came to the conclusion that was not possible, I racked my brain about what we could do to get them through the research process without doing any in-person, face-to-face data collection,” Stenson said.
It was then that Stenson reached out to Katie Schwab Ronning ’14, who is the head strength and conditioning coach at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“I had been talking to her in previous years about the data she had collected on her athletes at St. Kate’s. She has this massive data set, and so she allowed us to use it,” Stenson said. “We were able to come up with some research questions and analyze her data in place of in-person testing. It worked out really well for us.
“Usually, the students are working with their own human participants in the lab collecting data on people,” Stenson said. “So, this was not our standard research process.”
“She (Ronning) was really excited to see what we could come up with. She had always said to me, ‘I’d love to analyze this someday.’ And I thought, ‘Here’s your opportunity. What if we did it for you and serve as our research projects?’ I think she was excited to be able to use that (research) as a coach in her training of athletes.”
Ronning said the data used was a combination of heart rate monitor data and self-report survey data from the 2019-20 season from the St. Kate's basketball, swim and dive and soccer teams.
“This is data I had collected, but had not yet analyzed. I was very excited when Dr. Stenson approached me this summer about using the data for her students' research projects,” Ronning said. “It was a great partnership opportunity that enabled us to provide the students with a chance to analyze real-life data, while adapting to the challenges presented this year.
“I am grateful for the students' hard work and the mentorship of Dr. Stenson. And I am proud of the excellent contributions the CSB/SJU students made this year to exercise science and athletics.” Ronning added.
Stenson was also proud of the way her students adapted.
“I felt really bad that they couldn’t go through with the projects that they wanted to do originally. That’s kind of a draw to this process,” Stenson said. “But I’m really proud of the way they were able to just pivot on a dime and get it done - and do it really well.”
The Northland Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine (NACSM) is a diverse group of professionals and students dedicated to the advancement of sports medicine and exercise science. Its members are primarily from Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, although the organization welcomes members from neighboring states and Canadian provinces as well.
The chapter seeks to communicate scientific information, provide a forum for research, foster professional peer interaction and support career growth. NACSM adheres to the mission of the American College of Sports Medicine on a regional level.