NEWARK — Weeknights in April on the University of Delaware campus are typically quiet and low key, especially with the semester winding down and finals right around the corner.
But when the curtain opened at Mitchell Hall on Monday night for the second annual UD Athlete Talent Show, those in attendance were anything but quiet and low key.
The event, organized by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), brought together several UD teams in a showcase of 10 acts by Blue Hen student-athletes and coaches who normally star on the courts, fields and in the pools, but on Monday night took to the stage with the greatest of ease.
The Blue Hens baseball, women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s swimming, football, softball, women’s basketball and volleyball teams all performed in front of a packed and raucous crowd, raising more than $1,200 for Special Olympics Delaware.
“I thought that the talent show was a great success,” said Rachel Fineberg, assistant director of student services for athletes. “[Chairperson] Chelsea Craig and our SAAC representatives did a wonderful job with their planning. … The student-athletes strengthen their own sense of community and pride by being able to bond with one another in a festive atmosphere. They also get a chance to give back to the Delaware community and be a part of something bigger then themselves.”
"As a student-athlete, I think this event is popular because it gives the UD athletes a chance to showcase a wide variety of our skills and our talents off the playing field," Craig said. "It is a fun event where the student-athletes can goof off and show a different side to their personality as well as support an amazing cause."
Director of Athletics and Recreation Services Eric Ziady was in attendance to watch the acts that included, among other things, rapping, dancing, singing and drumming.
“Seeing our young men and women on stage collaborating together in a non-athletic setting, all in support of such a great cause makes all of us proud,” Ziady said. “The fact that so many other team members and coaches were in the audience supporting their efforts was a great example of how our entire athletics department can work together to help others.”
Men’s soccer coach Ian Hennessy has had his soccer team involved with Special Olympics since his arrival on campus seven years ago. So it was no surprise to see him starring in one of the videos, making his pitch for an Irish pope.
"Our bond with the athletes of the Special Olympics is a very strong one,” Hennessy, who grew up in Ireland, said proudly. “There probably isn't a month in the calendar year that we are not working together. The SAAC talent show is a great way to cap the academic year with a lot of laughter and cherished memories.”
The show is one the men’s swim team certainly will never forget. The judges crowned them champions after their inspirational dance routine, decked out in Speedos, of course.
“The swim team just really stood out,” said Tina Fields, an SODE athlete who served as a judge. “Just the way they were doing their moves. They were right on beat. That act was just super special to me. It was neat.”
It was perhaps the last act of the show that best summed up the relationship between the Blue Hen student-athletes and Special Olympics athletes when several of each took to the stage and together performed a dance routine as the grand finale.
"SAAC really values its relationship with Special Olympics," Craig said. "We actually had to turn people away from participating in that last dance act with the Special Olympics athletes."
“They brought the house down,” SODE executive director Ann Grunert said. “It was the perfect ending to an absolutely incredible night.”