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Long renowned for their lab and classroom prowess, McGill students can also flex their muscles with the best of them on the field, in the pool and on the ice. The Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) body recently announced that in 2005-06, McGill established a national record with 147 All-Canadian athletes. Under CIS guidelines, only full-time students achieving a minimum 80 percent average in their studies while competing in CIS-sanctioned sports qualify for the lofty label.
While the elite athlete as super student may seem an anomaly to outsiders, most people involved in athletics see it as quite the opposite. Interim Athletics Director Derek Drummond pointed to a recent study conducted at Canadian universities that suggested students who compete in sports have significantly higher GPAs than their more sedentary classmates. "This is proof positive that students who lead more structured lives do better," he said. "It also proves that smart people can run and jump," Drummond added with a chuckle.
With 17 All-Canadian honourees on last year's squad, the rugby Martlets claim bragging rights as McGill's smartest team. This is doubly impressive because the team won its eighth consecutive Quebec university rugby title last year.
Cindy Pressé, an All-Canadian second row forward on the Martlets rugby team and third-year phys ed student believes that there is no secret to the team's dual successes. "Everybody works hard," she said. "The key is getting your school work done first."
Philippe Eullaffroy, the head coach of the soccer Redmen (a team that established its own record last year with 12 All-Canadians), sits down with freshmen before each semester and asks them if they are ready to tackle the demands of being student-athletes. From the beginning of class to the end of soccer season in mid-November, that workload includes soccer every day of the week, including practices and games. "Players become extremely efficient at managing their time," said Eullaffroy. On road trips, books are packed alongside cleats so that time in the bus can be spent studying.
By faculty breakdown, Science outdistanced Arts, its closest competitor, 57 honourees to 23. When told of his faculty's showing, Science Dean Martin Grant remained magnanimous. "In line with its reputation as the most courteous faculty in McGill, the Faculty of Science would like to congratulate the other faculties for their tremendous achievements," he said, tongue firmly in cheek. "However, I would like to offer my personal mentorship to the deans of other faculties in the McGill teacher-scholar model."
And, as if the battle of the sexes didn't need any more ammunition, the university's women All-Canadians outnumbered their male counterparts 83 to 64. When told of the difference, Drummond laughed. "Hey, we've always known they're smarter than us."