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Montealegre named SHAPE America Major of the Year

Saul Montealegre (right) with advisor Laura Spiers.Montealegre with advisor Laura Spiers at the SHAPE America national conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Saul Montealegre is a senior athletic coaching education major at Tech who has forged a storied collegiate career in athletics and athletic coaching. This month, he’s adding another accolade to his resume as a SHAPE America Major of the Year award recipient.

The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) annually selects outstanding college students in the fields of health, physical education, recreation and dance. Awardees must be upperclassmen members of the organization who hold at least a 3.0 GPA and who regularly give back to their communities.

Laura Spiers, a WVU Tech sports studies instructor, has been working with Montealegre since 2015. She said that the award is a high honor.

“Being selected as WVU Tech's major of the year is an exceptional achievement. It recognizes a student for their academic excellence and outstanding leadership within Sport Studies. Major of the Year Award recipients belong to a family of excellent physical education, sport and health professionals who support and motivate each other,” she said.

Montealegre grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. He came to the United States to earn a degree, play soccer and learn to coach. He racked up a number of accolades on the Tech soccer squad and led the team to the 2015 NAIA National Tournament. Now he’s an assistant coach for the team and coaches club soccer.

“Coaching for me is a passion,” he said. “Seeing how the tips and feedback that I give makes a lot of difference and helps people to achieve their goals of feeling better and being capable of doing stuff that they never thought was possible is the biggest motivation for me.” 

His favorite part of the job? Seeing his encouragement come to life on the field.

“Knowing that there are people out there that trust my ideas and get fired up when it is time to put in work helps me to keep going,” he said.

Spiers said the contributions of students like Montealegre are inspirational for other students who are moving into their professions.

“Our students have so much potential and I encourage all students in any major to contribute to their field and to be passionate about what they are doing,” she said.

“Saul is an exceptional role model for our students as he has managed being a student, athlete and a contributing member to the sport studies field. I have been able to witness Saul's growth as an athlete and as a student and I am excited for what his future holds in the field of health, fitness and sport. We need positive and influential individuals like Saul in this field that are passionate about making a difference,” she said.

But for Montealegre, it’s all in a day’s work. It’s the same persistence he teaches in his coaching.

“Being recognized by SHAPE America is the outcome of my daily hard work and the discipline that I have, not just for school, but for everything I do,” he said. 

Montealegre graduates next month, then it’s on to the next phase. He plans to pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete and then move into coaching. He said his experience at Tech, especially in the sports studies program, has prepared him to take on the field.

“There are people in the program that will really teach you important lessons for life. They are the true definition of being a teacher, mentor and someone who you can trust,” he said. 

Montealegre is the sixth WVU Tech student to receive the SHAPE America Major of the Year Award.