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Class act / An outstanding young Western New Yorker

You won't be lonely if you play sports.

Just ask Craig Van Tuyl, a 2004 Iroquois Central High School graduate who won no fewer than five athletic awards from Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H.

"It was nice knowing that going into my freshman year at college, I'd have about 20 teammates that I would become friends with -- many long lasting -- and not be alone and lost," recalls Van Tuyl, 22, of Wales Center, who earned a degree this year in aviation flight operations.

"I love being an athlete. Most of the friends I made were my teammates, or I met through my teammates. There's no other feeling like taking the field, with your friends on the sideline cheering you on."

The award of which he is particularly proud was won during his junior year -- Male Athlete of the Year.

"I wasn't expecting it but was unexplainably happy when they called my name," he said. "I earned that award because in soccer, I led my conference in total saves, and saves per game. And in lacrosse I earned Second Team All-Conference.'"

Van Tuyl has been playing sports for as long as he can remember. "I started playing soccer when I was very young, and started playing lacrosse my sophomore year of high school," he says. "I just love everything about playing sports -- the atmosphere, the teammates, the skill, the work, the rewards, the challenges and the adventures."

Other awards included the Coach's Award for men's varsity soccer and the 2008 Sportsmanship Award in men's varsity lacrosse. He also was named to the college's 2007-08 All Academic Team, which honors student athletes who excel in the classroom as well as in competition by maintaining a grade-point average of 3.2 or higher.

Van Tuyl, the son of Richard and Monique Van Tuyl, has some lofty goals as he looks forward to a career as a pilot.

"I wanted to be a pilot ever since I was about 10 or so," Van Tuyl said.

Know a young outstanding Western New Yorker? Tell us about your nomination, including age, date-of-birth, address and phone number for possible publication in Class act. Sorry, photos can't be returned.

e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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