The life of the student-athlete is a delicate balance. Go for a run, or write that essay? Hit the weights, or hit the books? Pull an all-nighter in the lab, or get your rest and recovery time?
Not everyone can truly excel as both a student and an athlete. Jean-Simon Desgagnés is one of the best in the country at truly excelling at both.
The 22-year-old Université de Laval track and cross-country star was named one of the U SPORTS Top 8 Academic All-Canadians for 2019-20 earlier this week. The Top 8 represent two athletes – one male and one female – from every U SPORTS conference, from more than 4,900 Academic All-Canadians who maintained an average of 80 per cent or better while competing for their school’s varsity team.
“It’s a really big honour. Both sport and academics are my two priorities, so to be recognized at such a high level is a real honour,” said Desgagnés. “I just feel lucky to be part of such an amazing group.”
Desgagnés had a season to remember for the Rouge et Or. He won the RSEQ individual cross country title for the second consecutive season, earning First Team All-Star honours and being named the conference Athlete of Year as Laval won its ninth straight team title.
Two weeks later, he led the Rouge et Or to a fourth-place finish at the U SPORTS Championship race in Kingston, Ont.
Desgagnés has represented Canada internationally at the 2019 FISU Summer Universiade, World U20 Cross Country Championships and U20 Pan Am Athletics Championships where he won gold in the steeplechase.
In the classroom, Desgagnés maintained an average of 3.91 out of 4.33 in the fall of 2019, 4.22 in the winter of 2020 and 4.29 in the summer session in his third year studying medicine. He never had a grade lower than an A in the past year.
“The trick for me is to have specific times for both sport and school, and to focus on the one you’re doing. To me, they’re complementary to each other. You can get on the track and take your mind off an exam that’s coming up, and then you get home and study to get your mind off the hard workout you just did.”
With his fourth-year studies being conducted remotely, Desgagnés is faced with challenges and benefits alike from this new learning environment. “It’s difficult because you’re learning separate from everyone, but it’s also good for sport,” he explained. “You can do your classes when you want, so you can schedule eating, sleeping and recovery time around remote learning.”
When the school year comes to an end, he has one more sport accomplishment in mind. “The ultimate goal is to be selected to the team for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I’ll just stay focused and keep working.”
Coolen makes the grade
Dalhousie University hurdler Matt Coolen cracked the U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian Top 8 in his fifth year studying engineering.
Coolen won gold in the 60-metre hurdles at Nationals, adding it to his silver medal from 2019, setting a new Dalhousie record, and being named a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian. He also won that event and the 60-metre dash at the Atlantic University Sport Championships, leading the Tigers to their 18th AUS title in 19 years.
When it comes to academics, Coolen completed his studies with a 3.76 GPA and boasted the Dalhousie Entrance and In-Course Scholarships, as well as the Graham Family and Athletic Awards.