The CMS-ence of Luke Scanlan

Photo by Daniel Addison
Photo by Daniel Addison

CLAREMONT, Calif. - Senior Days are by nature bittersweet, but the mixed emotions will be even more raw for Luke Scanlan when the CMS men's soccer team holds its Senior Day on Saturday night against Caltech (7 p.m.), looking to earn its second straight outright SCIAC regular season title.

Scanlan won't be able to play, the same as the last 11 games since he was lost for the year with an injury in a 2-1 overtime win against Saint Thomas on Sept. 13.  There was only one spot in the CMS starting 11 left vacant after the graduation of last year's senior class, the defensive midfielder position that Aidan Johnson held last fall on his way to All-SCIAC honors, and Scanlan worked tirelessly throughout the offseason to fight for that spot. He started the first four games, before being injured in the fifth, but his leadership and work ethic, even after his injury, has remained a key element to this year's success.

That same work ethic has served Scanlan well in his academic pursuits as a biology major at Claremont McKenna. A native of Marietta, Georgia, Scanlan earned funding from the Sponsored Internships and Experiences program (SIE) from Claremont McKenna to remain in Claremont this summer doing biology research with Professor Lars Schmitz. He hopes to be able to present his research on the evolution of the eyes of mudskippers, an amphibious fish found in the Indo-Pacific, at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas in January.

With an academic workload that involves primarily lab sciences, and a sport that requires intense physical training, especially as a holding midfielder where running 7-8 miles over the 90 minutes isn't unusual, the balancing act would seem challenging. Scanlan, who has been a SCIAC All-Academic team selection every year in his career and who plans to attend medical school after graduation, says that it hasn't been as difficult as it might seem on the surface.

"I balance labs pretty easy with my soccer and social and school schedules," Scanlan said. "(Coach Matt Edwards) schedules practices on Tuesdays late for labs for science majors, which is extremely useful for me. I take the majority of labs in the offseason, when I take two or three, and that's where I can catch up. Overall it is extra work, but it's worth it, and it's definitely doable."

What has also been doable is excelling athletically and academically. After the Stags struggled to a four-win season in 2017, Scanlan was part of a veteran nucleus that spurred the program on to a 15-2-1 season and a SCIAC regular season championship last fall. This year's team is 11-3-2, has clinched at least a share of its second straight SCIAC regular season title, and hopes to earn the SCIAC Tournament championship and NCAA bid that slipped away last year with a penalty-kick loss in the conference tournament.

"I think the biggest difference the last two years is the amount of talent we've had coming in," Scanlan said. "My freshman year was Matt's first recruiting class, and since then he has only recruited good players. He's made sure to recruit players that bond with each other."

That bond was clearly evident after Scanlan suffered his injury in the closing moments of regulation against Saint Thomas. CMS had just given up a tying goal in the 87th minute, and a minute later, Scanlan went down near midfield untouched in obvious pain, needing several minutes before being assisted off the field. The team had already suffered one emotional body blow with losing the late lead, but this gut punch was even worse, as his teammates innately knew that his senior year was in serious jeopardy.

Scanlan refused to leave the field to head to the athletic training room for evaluation, instead staying on the cart with his leg elevated to watch the overtime sessions. He was rewarded for sticking it out, as he got to see one of his classmates, Cole Smith, head in the game-winner as CMS picked up a big non-conference victory.

When the golden goal celebration reached the CMS bench area, a voice could be heard amidst the euphoria, "Where's Scanlan? Where's Scanlan? Go to Scanlan." One by one, the Stags all left the mob to run over to the trainer's cart to offer hugs to their fallen teammate, both to share the celebration and offer condolences.  

A week later, Scanlan traveled to Occidental on crutches, his season officially over, to watch the Stags earn a big SCIAC win, and he relayed the story of his teammates coming up to the crowd after the game to greet him afterward, many of whom had written his initials on their cleats or wrists.

"Being a Stag has meant the world to me," he said. "It's that kind of stuff that you wouldn't get at other schools or with other teams, so I'm forever grateful."

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