Official Website of Dartmouth College Varsity Athletics

Leigha Clarkson and Chris O'Dowd Named Athletes of the Week

Article Image
Chris O'Dowd and Leigha Clarkson     By Dartmouth
Related Links

­­Athlete of the Week Archive

Each week, will spotlight two outstanding student-athletes - one male, one female - as Dartmouth's Athletes of the Week. Student-athletes may be chosen based upon their efforts both on and off the field of competition.

A couple of catchers - a senior and a freshman - backstopped Dartmouth's softball and baseball teams to solid Ivy weekends, making Leigha Clarkson and Chris O'Dowd our Athletes of the Week. O'Dowd hit .350 for the week with three home runs and three doubles, scoring seven runs and bringing home seven more. Clarkson hit .538 and had a .571 on base percentage in a 3-1 Ivy weekend for softball to help the Big Green move to 5-3 in conference play.

Dartmouth Female Athlete of the Week:
Leigha Clarkson (Perris, Calif.), Softball, Catcher, Senior

Leigha Clarkson led Dartmouth not only in hitting but slugging and on-base percentage in six games last week. She hit .538 in four league games along with a 1.077 slugging percentage and a .571 on-base percentage. She helped the Big Green to three Ivy wins, a sweep of Columbia and a split with Penn as well as a non conference victory over Sacred Heart. For the six games Dartmouth played she hit .400 with one double and two home runs along with four RBIs. She was stellar in the Big Green's only Ivy loss, a 3-2 effort against the Quakers. She went 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI. She had multiple-hits against Columbia as well, going 2-for-4 with one run and two RBIs, knocking her third home run of the season to help the Big Green to a solid 14-9 victory over the Lions. Thanks to her and her team's efforts, Dartmouth has moved to just a game behind Harvard in the North Division.

Talk about last week and the six games you guys played
One of our goals from our first week of Ivy competition was to put more pressure on our opponents' defenses by executing offensively, scoring runs early, and closing the door once we have the lead. We did a great job of accomplishing this as evidenced by the fact that we had a huge amount of innings with our lead off getting on base. Everyone was hitting the ball hard and we were able to string together hits even with two outs. Defensively we did a much better job of supporting our pitchers by taking care of the ball and getting outs when we needed them.

After playing so many games on the road, how nice was it to finally play at home?
After being on the road for so long it was great having the home field advantage. Not only is it nice playing on a field you know well and having the support of some loyal fans, but it's also nice not having to worry about hours of traveling and sleeping in a hotel the night before games.

Your team had a rough start to the season but how important do you feel it is to play the quality of teams you have faced prior to last weekend?
Every year we have a tough schedule prior to Ivies but this year was definitely one of our hardest yet. We were faced with playing teams that have already had weeks of competition and usually it's the first time we've played on dirt since the fall. Although we didn't do as well as we wanted, we were able to go into the Ivy season with the confidence of having already competed with the toughest pitchers and lineups in the country. We are a team that loves to challenge ourselves and we step on the field against any opponent with swagger. Our tough schedule early on and definitely helps us develop this.

What are some goals you and your team have for this season?
The overall goal that we have as a team for the season is to win the Ivy League Title. We were one game away from it last year and we are now hungrier than ever. In order to accomplish this goal we've focused a lot on executing the small details both offensively and defensively and taking the season with a pitch-by-pitch focus. Softball is a game of inches and we've worked hard all year to gain those inches where we can.

We've got a large senior class this season. How important is it for the six of you to really step up and be leaders this year?
With such a dominant senior class I think we've done a great job of providing a strong core leadership to the team both on and off the field. We each bring something different to the plate in terms of leadership and the team definitely feeds off of that. After last season ended, as a class we knew how we wanted this year to go and we've all stepped up in many ways to make sure it happens.

Dartmouth Male Athlete of the Week:
Chris O'Dowd (Cherry Hills Village, Colo.), Baseball, Catcher, Freshman

Freshman Chris O'Dowd (Cherry Hills Village, Colo.) provided plenty of power during the six games of the week, blasting three homers while smacking three doubles as well while hitting .350 overall with a .950 slugging percentage. The freshman catcher also led the team with seven runs scored, drove in seven and walked five times while striking out just twice. His first home run was the first run of a 14-4 romp over Williams as he scored three times on the day. The next day, he provided a two-run shot in the sixth to tie the game as Dartmouth battled back from a four-run deficit to beat Quinnipiac, 7-6. O'Dowd was directly responsible for both runs in a 5-2 loss to Columbia, scoring after singling and driving in the other with a sacrifice fly. In the nightcap he belted a two-run homer for insurance runs of a 9-4 win. In the final game of the weekend, he doubled twice and scored a run in a 3-2, 11-inning win over Penn.

You've come up with several clutch hits of late, especially with the long ball. To what do you attribute your recent success?
After missing the start of the season because of an illness, finally being healthy and getting consistent plate appearances has been a large factor. The clutch hits have come because I have been able to maintain a good approach at the plate, where I am focused but not thinking of anything beyond that.

You gradually have worked your way into the starting lineup on a regular basis. What adjustments have you had to make this season from playing high school ball last year to the Division I level?
Along with playing at a high level of baseball prior to playing collegiately, going into the season I was confident that our team's off-season training during the fall and winter had prepared me for what was to come this spring. I would also like to acknowledge the strong support system of family, friends, teammates and coaches that have believed in me, and how their faith in me has allowed me continue to succeed at the Division I level. 

What are your immediate goals for this season, and what are your goals for your career as a Dartmouth student-athlete?
I would like to be part of team that won an Ivy League Championship and went on to play in Omaha. That is my goal for this year and the rest of my college career. I would also like to help build upon our 'team' environment, where we can continue to attribute our success to the closeness of our team.

With a father who is an executive at the Major League Baseball level, you got the opportunity to grow up around the professional game. How do you feel that has that helped you with your development as a baseball player?
By growing up around the game I have developed a passion to play and study the game. My passion has helped me stay motivated and believe that I can play at the big-league level someday.

You were selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 40th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft last summer, but chose to attend Dartmouth instead of signing. Why did you choose to play collegiately instead of starting your professional career right then?
Not many baseball players taken in the draft are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend such a prestigious school such as Dartmouth. I felt that by gaining an education and continuing to develop as a player at Dartmouth, I would be more prepared to enter professional baseball.