The Right Stuff

Chris Yorlano sets himself high standards on two teams, and in the classroom

Between innings of a routine game last spring, Kenyon baseball coach Matt Burdette leaned against the fence near the Lords' dugout. Basketball coach Matt Croci was standing by the bleachers. Burdette glanced over, winked, and said, "Where would our programs be without Chris Yorlano?"

Good question. Where would the injury-riddled baseball team be without the guy who made a demanding transition from left field to second base? And where would the resurgent basketball team be without their selfless guard, the one who yielded his starting job but never once eased off the effort?

He isn't tall and doesn't showcase blazing speed. He doesn't command extraordinary strength, hog headlines, or flaunt a big-man-on-campus attitude. No, his contributions are much more substantial and rewarding, and both of his coaches know it.

Yorlano, in short, embodies the Division III ideal. He's the student-athlete who plays with passion even though he knows that this is, in a sense, the end of the line. He's the one who hits the books as hard as he does the hardwood. He's the one with all-region baseball honors and the only guy to have played in every Lords' basketball game over the past four seasons.

A senior, he's the team captain of both programs. And, oh, by the way, he carries a 3.64 grade point average while majoring in physics.

"Chris, in my mind, is what all student-athletes, regardless of division, should strive to be," Burdette said. "He's a great person, hard-working, and a high achiever in everything he does. It may take some extra effort, but Chris proves that it can be done right at a very high level."

Yorlano latched onto the opportunities presented to him at Kenyon and has maintained a firm grasp on each and every one of them. He values his experiences and gives back the best way he knows how--setting high standards and grinding out successful results.

"Chris is a strong leader with a tremendous work ethic and a team-first attitude," Croci said. "He went from being a starter as a freshman to coming off the bench, but nothing about his approach changed, and that is very rare."

Yorlano feels that athletes are sometimes unfairly criticized for devoting so much time to their outside-the-classroom passion. Musicians, actors, and dancers do the same.

"Too many times, Division III athletes are unfairly judged because of the stigma passed down by Division I programs," Yorlano said. "It's not at all like that here. In no way does athletics take away from academics, and I believe that in my four years I've proved that. I'm not going to say it was easy, because it wasn't. And I'm not going to say I did it on my own, because I didn't. Kenyon has been great. It's provided me with the opportunities I wanted to pursue and the right people to help me achieve all that I wanted."

Burdette sees Yorlano as a rare breed. "The dual-sport student-athlete is becoming less visible," he said. "More kids are specializing and more coaches are making kids specialize. Chris loves basketball and baseball, and the Division III model allows him to continue his passion for both."

Division III encourages Yorlano to approach academics in the same manner. His future includes graduate school and hopes of becoming a civil engineer.

"After I tell people I want to become an engineer, they always ask why I chose Kenyon, and the answer is simple," Yorlano explained. "I'm able to study physics, my favorite subject, as well as experience classes that aren't science-oriented. The liberal arts curriculum allows me to become well-rounded, to get involved with different subjects, different situations, and different people before I start focusing on engineering."

So where will Kenyon baseball and basketball be without Yorlano? It's a rhetorical question, really--one that underscores how much his coaches appreciate his accomplishments as well as his devotion to excellence in everything. One has the feeling that, whatever challenges lie ahead, Yorlano will meet them with hard work and a clear focus.

--Marty Fuller

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