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Field hockey player to gain unique perspective on North Carolina-Duke rivalry

By Greg Johnson

Next semester Loren Shealy will experience a part of life that no North Carolina or Duke student-athlete has had in their undergraduate career.

Shealy, a member of the top-seeded North Carolina field hockey team that is playing in the Division I national semifinals on Friday at 2 p.m. against Syracuse, was named to the Robertson Scholars Program, which means she will be living and attending classes at rival Duke next semester.

She is the first student-athlete from either university accepted into the program, which is a joint undergraduate scholarship program between North Carolina and Duke that was created in 2000 with a gift from North Carolina alumnus and businessman Julian Robertson and his wife, Josie, to foster collaboration and intercollegiate scholarship between the two schools their sons attended.

Robertson Scholars are selected based on their academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, force of moral character, exceptional leadership potential and interest in working with others.

The description certainly applies to Shealy, who sports a 4.0 grade-point average while majoring in business and being the third-leading scorer for the Tar Heels with 34 points (16 goals, two assists) this season.

She’s also in the running for the Elite 89 Award that will be presented tonight at the Division I Field Hockey Championship banquet, which is an honor presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA championships.

Shealy applied to be a Robertson Scholar after North Carolina athletics administrators asked their head coaches if they had anyone on their respective teams who would be interested.

“I had heard about the program when I was in high school,” said Shealy, a sophomore from Charlotte, N.C. “It was exciting to know I’ll be the first student-athlete involved in a program like this. It is definitely an honor.”

Part of the requirement of the Robertson Scholar Program, which accepts around 36 applicants annually, is that they must spend the second semester of their sophomore year away from their home university.

“I have applied for housing but I haven’t heard where I’ll be staying exactly,” said Shealy, who will be taking courses in economics, philosophy, psychology and religion at Duke. “Since I’m in the program, I can take classes at Duke until I graduate.”

Shealy will still return to her home campus for offseason practices and workouts.

The two campuses are about eight miles apart and share one of the most storied rivalries in all sports, most famously in men’s basketball.

Shealy is looking forward to gaining some insights into the other side of the rivalry.

“It will be interesting going behind ‘enemy lines’ to see what it is like to go to Duke,” Shealy said. “I’m still going to wear my UNC gear on basketball game days. But it will be cool to see how they do things on their campus.”

She also knows she will most likely run into some of Duke’s field hockey players in the next few months.

For now, Shealy’s focus is on capturing a national championship. The Tar Heels were the national runners-up in 2011 where they lost to Maryland in the final. Maryland takes on second-seeded Princeton in the second semifinal Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Norfolk, Va.

“We’re living in the moment,” Shealy said. “We’ve worked all season to get here, and we’re one win away from playing in the final again. It has been fun so far, and hopefully we can keep winning.”