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It takes a village

It takes a village

Kennedy Kish '24 and Jayonna Johnson '25 March 20, 2024
From press rooms to locker rooms, it takes a village to put on the NCAA First Four at UD Arena. Students at the University of Dayton working behind the scenes know the effort that goes into hosting the first games of March Madness firsthand. And, they're loving it.

Claire Hand

Sophomore sport management major

Photo by Jayonna Johnson '25

“Our bosses, Doug [Hauschild, director of athletics communication media relations] and Ross [Bagienski, director of athletics communication], said when they ask the seniors what their greatest experience has been, they all say the First Four. I like seeing what goes on behind the scenes. I’m making sure the press table is good, seeing if we’re running low on any materials in the media packets. I’m helping with [media] credentialing, and I’ll be holding the mic at the press conference. This opportunity is reassuring me [that this is the career I want], seeing how much is put into it and how rewarding it is when it goes smoothly.”

Connor Bruce

Fifth-year supply chain management major & men’s tennis player

Photo by Kennedy Kish '24

“I’m working in the press room helping answer questions. The last two years, I’ve also helped out running stats during the half and media timeouts. The past two years, UD students have been on spring break [during the First Four], so Krystal [Warren, associate athletics director] got student-athletes to help out. This isn’t what I plan to do — I’m not into journalism — but it’s awesome; I’ve been making brackets since I can remember as a kid, so to be here where it all starts is a great experience. It’s really cool to be behind the scenes and see all the pieces come together to make it run smoothly.”

Jayonna Johnson

Junior photography major 

Photo by Kennedy Kish '24

"This is actually my first First Four and it's actually very exciting. I didn't think I would go into sports photography; I'm pretty diverse in what I photograph, but doing this has been a huge opportunity. And just really fun and exciting. It makes me kind of nostalgic, being here with all the excitement because I was somewhat involved with sports in high school. It's been super fun, and I've been able to meet new people and get to know the people that I work with, which is really great."

Shannon Hamilton

Senior health science major

Photo by Kennedy Kish '24

“In May, I’ll be graduating, and then going to [Ohio State University] for a master’s in athletic training. This is my first year at the First Four, and it’s great. I get to see the logistics behind everything outside of what I do [in the training room] but also with what I do. I am supporting UD’s people in doing their hands-on-work. At the practices and during the games, we make sure the fridges in the locker rooms are stocked and the coolers behind the bench are full of water and Powerade. The refs and the media have their own water coolers and refrigerators, which we keep stocked. I see trainers for the teams that come in and learn what it’s like to travel and tape up your team. It’s a little foray into the future, hopefully, of what I will do. There are a few of us; we rotate so we all get the opportunity to watch the game. I love college basketball; I’m kind of a sports nerd. March is so fun to watch basketball.”

Kennedy Kish

Senior communication major

Photo by Jayonna Johnson '25

"This is my second year doing the First Four, and I think I want to go into sports photography and social media, so [photographing the tournament] just gives me more of that gameday experience. Plus, I get to see more teams than just UD, so that's pretty cool. Seeing all the different fans — like Pittsburgh had the best fans at last year's First Four — and everyone cheering on their team is so cool. Being able to really enjoy basketball as a fan base. It's awesome."

Evan Peaco

First-year health science major

Photo by Kennedy Kish '24

“I am so excited to be here. I’ve watched March Madness for years. It’s great getting to see the players — they are a lot bigger than me, and being around them and feeling their energy and being in the presence of March Madness blue and black is amazing. You get exposed to a lot of different people — doctors, athletic trainers — a lot of people I will be working with in the future. I get to create connections now. This is my first First Four, but I’ve been shadowing UD athletic trainer Caitlin Fater who does softball and volleyball. Being an undergrad, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and I get to do it for four years. You have to be on top of your game. Seeing the staff, adapting to the environment, talking to people, speaking the language. It’s super cool — I’m one of those failed athlete stories. This was my dream as a kid, and to combine it with what I’m passionate about as a career, it couldn’t be any better.”

Olivia Shirk

Junior communication major 

Photo by Jayonna Johnson '25

“I’m here with Flyer News as the director of digital media and photography. I’ve been doing all the men’s basketball games [for the student newspaper], but with the First Four, I have been able to build up my portfolio a lot. That has been super helpful. This upcoming summer, I'm doing an internship with a sports marketing company, so I feel like being able to be around sport [at this level] has definitely helped me. This is my first time at the First Four, but I just did the A-10 tournament in Brooklyn, New York, last week, which was really cool, too. But this is definitely a lot going on, but it's been super fun. There's so many cool people here too — there's AP photographers, there’s CBS here — just some really cool people.”

Jack Castetter

Second-year, doctor of physical therapy program

Photo by Kennedy Kish '24

“I was here last year too — I love the atmosphere. I get a lot of good experience with the sport of basketball and meeting people in the profession. I volunteer since I’m a certified athletic trainer. Anytime I can, I like to give back and help out. In physical therapy, there are a lot of different areas in which you can work — hospital setting, acute care, inpatient and outpatient, and niches like women’s health, pelvic health and sport. As an athletic trainer, you primarily work with sports and focus on emergency care [injuries during the games]. What I like most is getting to meet people, getting their stories and helping people. There’s a lot more going on with each patient, physically and mentally — everyone’s a puzzle. When you figure it out, you can help provide the best care possible. In working with the undergraduates, I hope they are able to take in a lot of peoples’ perspectives of how they do their care, and that they can meld it into how they decide to do their own care. … You don’t have to give them a lot of guidance; they are eager to come in and get their work done. The people here at the University of Dayton are great — they are first-class staff.”

Zoë Hill

Second-year, communication graduate program

Photo by Jayonna Johnson '25

"This year, I am running content for UD Magazine as the graduate assistant, and it has been wild. This is my third time as a media member at the First Four, but being in charge has been such a fun but challenging experience. I decided to undertake interviewing all of the teams' mascots, which has been such a funny opportunity that really makes me say, 'Wow, I love my job.' Making sure all of my team is getting what they need to get out of this while I'm editing, writing and running around has been crazy, but I love it. I am graduating in May, and I see this as a trial for what I want to do in sports when I leave UD. Plus, there's no better place to catch a basketball game."

Alicia Donley

Second-year, communication graduate program & women’s soccer player

Photo by Kennedy Kish '24

“I’m interviewing students working the tournament, following along with them and trying to get any information and content that I can in hopes that we will get a bigger video that showcases University Dayton students, the student workers and the student experience. It’s a great way to promote the First Four, March Madness and just get traction for the school. Seeing the arena being transformed — I come to games when it’s just UD fans, but seeing all the different fans, the NCAA has done such a great job. Seeing all the work that goes behind it is honestly probably been my favorite part. And then maybe sitting courtside would be a close second!”

Press row