Mendez named to A-Sun student leadership position
Sophomore  Esteban Mendez was named vice chairman of the A-Sun SAAC.
Sophomore Esteban Mendez was named vice chairman of the A-Sun SAAC.
Sophomore cross-country runner Esteban Mendez has been named vice chairman of the Atlantic Sun Conference Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Mendez was elected to the position by representatives of the league’s 10 teams and will serve under chairwoman Sarah Santana, who plays softball for Mercer.

Mendez, an English major, is the vice president of the JU SAAC and will now hold a leadership position at the conference level. The organization’s goal is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by serving as a voice to address concerns to administrators for the A-Sun and the NCAA.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Mendez said. “This will be a great chance to better serve student athletes both on campus and across the conference as well.”

Mendez was encouraged to take a role in the committee by Ron Grigg, the JU director of track & field and cross country. Grigg named Mendez the cross country team’s SAAC representative, which led to his current role as vice president under JU SAAC President Jessica Hotchkiss (women’s lacrosse).

Though initially unsure of his leadership abilities, Mendez said his selection to both committees has boosted his confidence. By learning some of the most important issues impacting student-athletes, Mendez said the A-Sun SAAC can produce changes efficaciously.

“It’s an important job because I get to serve as a liaison to student athletes and the community,” Mendez said. “Some athletes might be afraid to speak out on certain issues, and we can serve as the bridge to help them get that message across.”

Mendez said one of his goals is to help the student athletes at JU think about more than just their own sport and connect with people beyond the campus. The Port St. Lucie, Fla. native is the right man for the job, said Chris Johnson, JU’s director of student-athlete services.

“I am extremely excited to see Esteban get the opportunity of representing JU at the conference level,” Johnson said. “He has done an outstanding job as the Vice President of our SAAC here at JU and I know he will do an outstanding job as Vice Chair of the A-Sun SAAC. I look forward to seeing him grow in this position.”

Athletically, Mendez has not missed a meet for the Dolphins. He posted the third highest finish at the 2010 A-Sun Championships with a time of 30:52.84 and registered a time of 19:35.72 at the FLRunner.com Invitational. In 2011, Mendez finished 21st in the JU Short Course duals on Sept. 2.

Mendez said it hasn’t always been easy balancing his time between school, athletics and his part-time job on campus at the Swisher Library. But Grigg said Mendez’s leadership abilities as a runner correlate to leadership roles outside of competition.

“Esteban showed tremendous dedication to the sport and the team as a freshman and has taken on the role of team leader and mentor to our new athletes this season,” Grigg said. “His work with the cross country program has expanded as he has a true desire to help improve the student-athlete experience each sport at JU.”

- By Brian Bohl