By 7 a.m. on most days, Loren Shealy ’15 is up and at ’em. At least two days a week she takes early morning runs with her teammates on UNC’s top-ranked field hockey team.

By 8 a.m. she’s in class. A second-semester sophomore, Loren has already been accepted to UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and is pursuing a degree in finance.

Loren Shealy

Loren at the Robertson Scholars Program bus, which runs between Carolina and Duke.
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Camarati, UNC Athletics Communications

By 1 p.m. she’s at Francis E. Henry Stadium, where she will train for the next four hours, review film, lift weights and prepare for the next match. The team has won both the 2012 ACC regular season and tournament championships, and is preparing for the NCAA tournament.

By 5 p.m. if she’s lucky, she hits the showers, grabs some dinner with her team or on her own, and hits the books. Hard.

Lights out by 11 p.m. (ish) And then she does it all over again.

2012 ACC Champions-UNC Field Hockey

2012 ACC Champions-UNC Field Hockey

Loren is a talented player on the nation’s top field hockey team at one of the country’s most prestigious and highly competitive NCAA Division I schools—UNC-Chapel Hill.

She’s also an academic star, carrying a 4.0 G.P.A. in a demanding major at an elite business school.

Loren celebrates

Loren celebrates her second goal of the ACC tournament final game. She scored on an empty net to ice the game. She was one of two Tar Heels named to the ACC All-Tournament team.

This year, she garnered an individual title no other UNC or Duke athlete has ever held—that of Robertson Scholar. The Robertson Scholarship program is a joint undergraduate scholarship program between UNC and Duke University. It was created in 2000 with a gift from UNC alumnus and businessman Julian H. Robertson and his wife Josie to foster collaboration and inter-collegiate scholarship between the schools their sons attended. Scholars are selected based on their demonstration of outstanding academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, force of moral character, exceptional leadership potential and interest in working with others.

Always the high achiever, Loren graduated from Charlotte Country Day School a semester early so she could train with the team, become acclimated to campus and avoid redshirting in her first year. But when she learned she would receive the Robertson Scholarship, Loren was surprised … and modest.

“I feel very fortunate to have the chance to study at two of the best academic institutions anywhere, to meet new people and to explore the world,” she said. “To be the first student-athlete from either school to participate is very special and I want to represent my fellow athletes well and encourage others to join me.”

Loren was selected in April 2012 as part of the Robertson First-Year Selection Program from a pool of more than 200 candidates from both universities based on their demonstrated academic potential, character and leadership during their first two semesters on campus. Launched in 2009, the First-Year Selection Program invites current UNC and Duke first-year students each fall to apply to become Robertson Scholars. Scholars join the program immediately upon their selection and receive full program benefits in subsequent years.

By the numbers

  • UNC’s field hockey team is currently ranked #1 in the nation with a record of 17-1.
  • The Tar Heels have won six NCAA titles, most recently in 2009. They finished as the national runner-up in overtime the past two seasons.
  • Carolina is the 2012 regular-season and tournament Atlantic Coast Conference champion after finishing ACC play 5-0 and a 4-2 victory over third-seeded Maryland on Nov. 4  in Chapel Hill. UNC has won 18 ACC Tournament crowns, more than any other school in the conference. The most recent title came in 2012
  • Shealy has played in all 17 games this fall, starting five. She ranks third on the team in goals with 11 and also has one assist for a total of 37 points.
  • Two of her goals this fall have been game winners, and she has scored in each of the last four games (Boston College, Dartmouth, Virginia, Maryland).
  • As a freshman, she received the team’s Ken and Cheryl Williams Rookie of the Year Award.
  • She earned high school All-America honors and was a two-time all-state pick at Charlotte Country Day.
  • Her father, Thomas Theodore Shealy, Jr. ’84 is a UNC alumnus and former baseball player.

More than Xs and Os

UNC’s Head Field Hockey Coach Karen Shelton identified Loren as a potential scholar after a meeting where program representatives invited coaches to recommend candidates. “After that meeting, I immediately thought of Loren because she is just one of those rare kids who inspires you with her work ethic, her curiosity, her commitment to excellence, her motivation to be the best at whatever she does and her willingness to put in the work,” Shelton said. “Being an elite athlete is not easy; expectations are high and competition is fierce, but Loren takes that in stride and really runs with it, embraces it.”

Being a top student isn’t easy, either; combining the two is a monumental accomplishment. UNC Chancellor Emeritus and Professor James Moeser, who co-teaches the first-year seminar “Music and culture: Understanding the world through music” in which Loren was a student, likened it to an intricate musical score that is beautifully balanced. “It takes just the right blend of instruments, rhythms, notes and measures to build to that exciting and highly anticipated crescendo that really moves people,” he said. “If one section is weak, it can throw the entire performance into disarray. Same with student-athletes—both areas need the commitment and attention to detail to reach that crescendo, that highest point of success. Loren was so engaged and engaging in my classroom and her performance clearly demonstrated her desire to be successful.”

For Loren, who, by the way, is also an accomplished cellist, success in the classroom gives her that same rush as achievement on the playing field. “For me, doing well in my school work makes me feel really good about myself and makes me as proud as the fact that my field hockey team is ranked number one right now,” Loren said. “I also know that I will not make a career of professional sports, so making sure I have a solid plan that will serve me well in whatever I do is really important. I’ll always want to play and be involved in field hockey because I’m so passionate about it, but I have lots of passions, and I want to pursue them, too.”

Loren in action

Loren in action

And she has. In summer 2011 she participated in the Coach for College program—an academic and sports training camp run by collegiate athletes for kids in Vietnam. Launched in summer 2008 by former Duke University women’s tennis player, Robertson Fellow (post-graduate) and Rhodes Scholar Parker Goyer, the program enables student athletes to use the skills they developed as players—focus, teamwork, persistence and dedication—to help others.

This past summer, Loren spent her Robertson program “community-building” experience in the Mississippi Delta working with two other Duke Scholars on a summer youth enrichment project. “There is always a need that we as volunteers and students can address, and there is always room for us to improve as well,” Loren said. “It was eye-opening. I grew up in Charlotte and was fortunate that my school had good resources to support my education, but it’s not that way everywhere.”

What’s next

For the next two summers, Loren will participate in her “exploration” and “synthesis” experiences where she can craft an individual effort focused on areas of particular interest. You can bet that, with Coach Shelton’s help, Loren will incorporate her love of field hockey with her affinity for numbers. “I am really looking forward to spending the summer training both my mind and my body, most likely abroad,” Loren said. “There are fantastic places around the world where I can do both, and I really want to try and do that so when I return to campus, I’ll be ready.”

As part of the Robertson program, Loren will be living and taking classes on Duke’s campus for the spring semester. As a Carolina athlete, Loren says that should prove extremely interesting. “I’m really looking forward to taking classes there that aren’t offered at UNC, and to networking with other students and athletes as well,” she said. “Of course I’m familiar with their field hockey players and have great respect for their programs, but I’ll admit that I’m excited about experiencing this rivalry up close and personal from a slightly different perspective. It’s the best thing ever!”

By Hope Baptiste