Buja shows off her diploma at the Spring graduation ceremony.

May 27, 2014

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - A little over a week ago, senior women's bowling superstar Megan Buja walked across a stage in the William P. Hytche Athletic Center. She has been there before, being honored for winning one of the four National Championships she racked up during her career for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). But this time it was different, she wasn't wearing a bowling t-shirt or posing for a photo with a trophy. This time she was in a black robe and mortar board receiving a different kind of trophy, a degree in human ecology from President Juliette B. Bell, Ph.d. The four-time National Champion finished her undergraduate career with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, graduated Summa Cum Laude and is at the top of her sport in winning and at the top of her classmates in grades, achieving near perfection in her college career.

"Graduation was a really bittersweet day for me," Buja said. "It marked the end of a major chapter in my life and I can no longer say I am a student-athlete. It's been a long journey, but it definitely went by fast. I am ecstatic to say that I maintained my perfect 4.0 GPA after eight challenging semesters and I am thankful that my family and friends who were there from the beginning all the way to the end, watching me walk across the stage."

Last week it was announced that Buja was named to the Capital One Academic All-District II Team. She was a First-Team selection in the University Division for women's at-large teams for the third straight year. Buja is the only women's bowling student-athlete in the country to earn the recognition this season.

"Knowing that Megan is the only bowler in the country to earn this honor, that just floors me," said head coach Kayla Bandy. "In a sport with less than a 100 teams, for the voters to hold her in such high regard for her academic and athletic career, I think that is something every student-athlete strives for and something the sport should be proud of. I am so proud of her and think she is more than deserving of this honor. I only got to coach her for one year, but I feel fortunate to have done so and am a better coach for it."



"Before my senior year, the joke was that I had nowhere to go but down," Buja smirked. "I hoped I could prove that joke wrong. Coach Bandy came in as the new head coach this year and she really pushed us to be the best that we could be. She saw our potential and believed in us."

Last year Buja pushed the All-District award all the way to earning CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, becoming just the second student-athlete ever at UMES to be named an Academic All-American.

"I am proud to be an Academic All-American," added Buja. "I have always said I am a student first and an athlete second. Being honored with the Academic All-America distinction is an amazing feeling because it means I have been successful both on the lanes and in the classroom. It's what every student-athlete should strive for."

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must carry a minimum 3.3 grade-point average and is a starter or key reserve on a team. The award is selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and recognizes the nation's top student-athletes for their combined performance in the classroom and in their sport.

The Academic All-District ® teams are divided into eight geographic districts across the United States and Canada. The University Division team includes NCAA Division I participants, while the College Division team combines NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA, Canadian and two-year schools. First-team Academic All-District ® honorees advance to the Capital One Academic All-America® Team ballot, where first, second and third-team All-America honorees will be selected later this month, where Buja looks for a back-to-back selection.

Her trophy case is already pretty full. This season, she also won the NCAA's Elite 89 award for the third year in a row. That award is presented in all 89 sports the NCAA sponsors and goes to the highest GPA of any student-athlete competing at the finals site in their respective sport. She also just earned her third UMES Scholar-Athlete of the Year award from the Division of Athletics. And on the lanes? Buja is a three-time All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) selection and was the 2012 United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Star of Tomorrow winner.

But this past season was different. As the only senior on the team, Buja knew she had to lead by example. Did she ever. She had her best season to date, averaging a 204.5 and earning the coveted National Tenpins Coaches Association (NTCA) All-America distinction, something that had eluded her throughout her college career.

"It's been a goal of mine for a long time to be an All-American," Buja said. "I've worked really hard over the years to become the best bowler I can be and have come a long way. I knew at the beginning of the season that this was my last chance to be named an All-American, but I tried not to focus on it. I knew if I did all of that I could to help my team be successful, then maybe this individual honor would be in the cards for me. It feels kind of like the icing on the cake for my college career."

Having achieved so much academically and athletically she was also named the UMES Female Athlete of the Year earlier this month at the department's award ceremony, "The Harry's." She became the first student-athlete in UMES history to earn both Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Year honors in the same season.

"Megan is the poster child for being a student-athlete," said Director of Athletics Keith Davidson. "She graduated in four years, with a 4.0 and four National Championships. Four seems to be her lucky number. She did all that not as a role player. She bowled so well she was an All-American, but on top of that she was an Academic All-American, never compromising her study time for practice time. She got the most out of her college experience, from scholarship, to sportsmanship to citizenship, she left UMES a better person and her time here made us a better department."

Still, she can't get away from UMES, and they don't want to lose her. Buja will return to Princess Anne next fall, working with the department of human ecology, fulfilling a 41-week supervised practice program in dietetics. This allows her to sit for a credentialing exam that she has to pass to become a Registered Dietitian. The department and Buja ranked where they would like to complete the program and they matched up, both wanting to keep each other close.

"My career at UMES has been an amazing one and it gets to continue," Buja smiled. "Four years ago I never would have expected to have four national championship rings when I graduated. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful girls I've been lucky enough to call my teammates, the coaches, especially Coach Sharon Brummell, Doug Dukes and my teammate and coach Kristina Frahm, who have all helped me become the bowler and person I am today. I am so grateful to the athletic department and University as a whole for always supporting the program and I am privileged to always call myself a Lady Hawk."

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