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By Jeff White (
CHARLOTTESVILLE –– Compassion and kindness are wonderful qualities in a person, and Gwin Sinnott displayed them from an early age––so much so that Julie Myers had doubts about Sinnott’s ceiling in lacrosse.
“We watched her play club ball, and she did really well on the field, and she did well at camps,” said Myers, the longtime head women’s coach at the University of Virginia. “But our biggest concern was, she’s so compassionate, she’s so nice, would she feel bad taking a ball from somebody? I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work.’ “
During Myers’ days as a UVA student, her classmates and friends included Ned Sinnott, Gwin’s father. “So I’ve known Ned forever and ever and then met Gwin when she was a little kid,” Myers said. “We were like, ‘Can you be that nice and also be fierce?’ That was our first impression, and Ned was like, ‘No, no, no, when she has a stick in her hand, she does have a different personality. She’s pretty tough.’ “
Father knew best. After a stellar career at Collegiate School in Richmond, Gwin Sinnott joined Myers’ program at UVA, where she earned a starting job on defense this season.
“Truly, she’s a talented athlete,” Myers said. “She’s super fast, and she’s a really hard worker. She still is probably one of the nicest, most compassionate, most giving, kind people I’ve ever met in my life, but she’s a fierce competitor.”
Sinnott has distinguished herself elsewhere on Grounds. A third-year student in UVA’s School of Nursing, she recently was awarded the T. Rodney Crowley Jr. Scholarship for 2020-21. She learned on March 30 that she’d been selected.
“I did not think I would get the scholarship at all, but I was just honored to have been interviewed,” Sinnott said. “So when I got the call I was shocked and overwhelmed.”
Crowley played varsity tennis at UVA, from which he graduated in 1980, and later coached the women’s tennis team at his alma mater. He died of brain cancer in 1991. The scholarship, presented annually to a UVA student who best demonstrates leadership, sportsmanship, character and integrity for which Crowley was known, covers the equivalent of full in-state tuition for the recipient’s fourth year as an undergraduate.
The scholarship, which is not restricted to student-athletes, was first awarded in 1992. Sinnott is the third women’s lacrosse player to be so honored, joining Lauren Aumiller (2002) and Chelsea Metz (2005). Recent recipients include Bryce Hall (2019) and Jack Salt (2018).
“More than anything, the award comes down to character, and Gwin has that in buckets,” said Louis Sarkes, one of the trustees of the Crowley Scholarship.
Sarkes and Crowley were good friends, and Sarkes remembers how well Cowley handled adversity. Crowley never complained about injuries, Sarkes said, and even when “Rodney was sick with a brain tumor, he was the one trying to keep everyone’s spirits high around him, even though he had a terminal diagnosis. We kind of saw that in Gwin. I think it came out in Julie’s letter of nomination.”
Sinnott missed the 2019 season while recovering from surgery on her foot, but she was “cheering everyone on, and she never let it get her down,” said Sarkes, who helps oversee the selection committee for the Crowley Scholarship. “Her perseverance is one of the things that stood out to us. And the other is her compassion.”
When Sinnott was in elementary school, two of her cousins died of a rare neuromuscular degenerative disease. “Just seeing that,” she recalled, “I realized that I wanted to do something to help kids or be a nurse. So that’s kind of what drove me to this career path.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the selection committee to conduct interviews with nominees remotely this year. During Sinnott’s interview her “compassion came through very clearly,” Sarkes said. “It’s one thing to read about it in a letter of recommendation somebody writes, then another to really sense it for yourself. It was a palpable way that we could sense that.”
The women’s lacrosse team has 12 scholarships to divide among its players each academic year. The Crowley Scholarship won’t count toward the team’s total in 2020-21, which means Myers will be able to reward another player with the funding she would have given Sinnott. 
“So it’s a win for everybody,” Myers said.
Sinnott is the third women’s lacrosse player in recent years to study nursing at UVA. Kasey Behr was a senior when Sinnott was a freshman on the team. Another nursing student, Annie Dyson, is in her second year in Myers’ program.
“It was great having Kasey when I was a first-year,” Sinnott said, “and now Annie’s with me and we’re only a grade apart, so it’s been awesome just to have her. And we study and do stuff together, which is great.”
For most of Sinnott’s time at UVA, Kate Stephensen was the academic advisor for women’s lacrosse.
“Having that legacy of nursing in the program has been particularly helpful,” Stephensen said. “When I first talked to Gwin, when she was being recruited, I connected her with Kasey. And then kind of the same thing with Annie when she was being recruited, I connected her with Gwin and Kasey. Since they all kind of have that help-each-other personality, they’ve been very good about being connected and talking through how to make yourself successful in both lacrosse and their nursing commitments.”
Nursing students follow a demanding schedule, but that hasn’t deterred Sinnott.
“I remember talking to her on her recruiting trip,” Stephensen said, “and how she was extremely proactive and understanding what some of the challenges would be, with clinical hours and course work the first couple years being extremely rigorous. She knew from the get-go that this was going to be a lot to take on. I’ve seen that consistent proactivity since she’s been here, too, as a student. That idea of proactivity has been real key in her mindset, but then she also has a very active, compassionate, team-first concern for others really driving everything she does.”
Behr is a nurse in New York, a state that’s been especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I definitely have been paying pretty close attention and keeping up with my friends that are graduated and nurses right now, which is kind of crazy for them,” Sinnott said. “I texted Kasey the other day to see how she’s doing. She’s on a pediatrics floor, working with kids, but she says it’s been pretty crazy.”
Sinnott, who’s also interested in pediatric nursing, is active in the Team IMPACT program, which matches college teams with children who are dealing with serious illnesses. Between lacrosse and nursing, though, she doesn’t have as much time for community service as she might like.
“For the most part, I get to practice on time, just because nursing is a lot of early morning stuff,” Sinnott said, “so it’s more of making up those morning lifts we have. But Julie’s been awesome. Tuesdays and Thursdays are normally when I have clinicals, so that’s 7 to 3, and I come a little bit late to practice.”
Myers said Sinnott “comes late to some things and she misses other lifts and what not, but she never cuts a corner. If she misses a lift, she makes it up. If she misses practice, she stays after. She makes sure that she’s not getting away with anything and she’s always trying to get better in every setting.”
Sinnott has been home in Richmond with her parents and her two brothers since UVA switched to online classes last month. To study nursing that way is challenging, she acknowledged.
“We’ve missed our clinicals,” Sinnott said. “Third year is the big year for clinicals. Basically, twice a week you go to the hospital for eight-hour shifts, and we obviously can’t do that. So we’re doing these virtual simulations, which is kind of like a computer game of scenarios, with different patients. So it’s been pretty interesting. Not too bad.”
She’s staying in shape by running outside on the nearby University of Richmond campus. To see college sports canceled so abruptly last month “was just so shocking, because nothing like this has ever happened before,” Sinnott said. “We had worked so hard in fall ball, preseason, and the beginning of our season, and the thing you play for comes during May, ACCs and NCAAs. So just to see everything get cut short was definitely disappointing, especially for the seniors.”
It’s been tough on everyone associated with the program. And so Sinnott’s selection as the Crowley Scholarship recipient was a welcome piece of good news for the Wahoos this spring.
“It’s a huge award,” Myers said. “It’s a huge honor.”