Making the grade: UM student-athletes celebrate 23rd semester of 3.0-plus GPA
Some perspective: Anne Mari Petrino was a second-grader at St. Margaret Mary School in Louisville, Ky., when the streak began.
Now a freshman outfielder on the Griz softball team, Petrino, who aided the cause with a perfect 4.0 GPA in the fall, helped Montana post its 23rd consecutive semester with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better.
The Department of Athletics' 321 student-athletes had an average term GPA for the fall of 3.11. The Grizzlies' average cumulative GPA -- that is, their GPAs for the entirety of their collegiate academic pursuits -- checked in at 3.18, the fifth straight semester that figure has been above 3.1.
"I'm proud to be a small part of that tradition. It's definitely very rewarding," Petrino said. "I've always had academics at the top of my priorities, along with athletics."
Petrino is an exemplar to represent the streak, which started in the fall of 2005, when a strong semester in the classroom upped Montana's cumulative GPA from 2.94 to 3.00.
Hundreds of student-athletes have come and gone since then, but the department's GPA hasn't dipped below 3.0.
The 5-foot-4 outfielder knows a thing or two about coming and going. The daughter of Idaho football coach Paul Petrino and twin sister of Vandal quarterback Mason Petrino, Anne Marie has lived the itinerant lifestyle one would expect as the daughter of a football coach advancing up the ladder.
She has moved nine times in her life and has been educated in Louisville; Atlanta; Fayetteville, Ark.; Champaign, Ill.; Fayetteville again; and finally Pullman High School when her dad took over coaching duties in nearby Moscow four years ago.
Even with all that moving, with the revolving door of schools, teachers and classmates -- here today, somewhere new tomorrow -- there was a constant.
"I've never gotten a B, ever, in my entire life," said the future business major. "I was a 4.0 throughout high school and valedictorian, so I was kind of expecting a 4.0 in the fall. That's kind of the standard I set for myself.
"It's what I wanted to achieve, and I worked really hard to make it happen."
So did her fellow Grizzlies. Every program but football, which came in at healthy 2.93, its fifth best on record, has a cumulative GPA of 3.13 or better after the fall semester.
The women's cross country team, led by Vicky Pounds, had the top term GPA of 3.74, which raised its department-leading cumulative GPA to 3.71.
Kris Nord's men's tennis team had a semester GPA of 3.66, the best in that program's history, and Mark Plakorus's soccer team checked in at 3.44, the sixth consecutive semester that program has had a term GPA of 3.4 or better.
The soccer team had the most 4.0 semesters of any program, with four, while taking one of the highest average course loads (15.1 credits) during a semester that included its competitive season.
Matt Higgins' women's golf team followed its 3.51 GPA from the spring with another solid effort of 3.41 in the fall. Steve Ascher's women's tennis team had a 3.4 for the fall, giving his program a 3.4 or better five of the last six terms.
Featuring the largest squad outside of football, with 53 countable athletes, Brian Schweyen's women's track and field team had a GPA of 3.28 in the fall.
Volleyball had a term GPA of 3.14, softball a 3.08, men's track and field a 3.07, its fourth consecutive semester above 3.0 after never having achieved a 3.0 prior to the 2015 spring term.
Men's cross country finished the fall with a GPA of 2.99, women's basketball a 2.98, men's basketball a 2.95, though all three of those programs still have average cumulative GPAs better than 3.1.
The 96 members of the Griz football team had a 2.85 GPA for the fall. Exactly half of those players, 48, had a semester GPA of 3.0 or better.
It was a joyous holiday season at the Petrino household. Anne Marie had her 4.0, and Paul, Mason and the Idaho football team ended the season on a five-game winning streak to finish 9-4, highlighted by a 61-50 stomping of Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise on Dec. 22.
Now comes the hard part for all of them: keeping it going. The Vandal football team has raised the bar of what is expected, and Anne Marie is about to face the challenge of her academic life.
Less than three weeks into the spring semester, the Montana softball team will open its season in Cedar Falls, Iowa. And that's only the start of missed class time and studying in airports and hotel rooms.
The Grizzlies will play tournaments in Santa Clara, Calif.; Honolulu, Hawaii; St. George, Utah; and Tulsa, Okla.; and make Big Sky Conference road trips to Sacramento State, Portland State and Weber State.
And if all goes according to plan, a return to the Big Sky tournament, which will be played the same week as finals at Montana. It's about to get serious.
"We're on the road for two months, so I'm going to have to have extra communication with my professors," Petrino said. "I was at every class in the fall and able to learn everything. The spring will be a whole new level of working hard. It's going to be a challenge.
"My parents have told me that at some point I'm going to get a B, and that it's going to be okay and I'll have to get over it. If it happens, it will be heartbreaking."
It's probably inevitable for Petrino, but when a single B becomes a thing of heartbreak, it means Montana's academic streak is in good hands.