Competing in the Olympic Games is seen as one of the biggest honors for an athlete to accomplish.
Creighton Athletics has had many successful athletes, including six athletes who had the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
The first Jays to compete in the Olympics were both at the 1936 Berlin Olympics for the United States.
Carl Vinciquerra was a boxer in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games. He attended the Heider College of Business from 1935 to 1937, which was called the College of Commerce at the time.
Vinciquerra had a scholarship for the Bluejay Football team. However, during his junior year at Creighton, he began to box. He was very successful at boxing and won 14 consecutive fights to qualify for the 1936 Olympics.
Vinciquerra then had a very successful professional boxing career where he won 40 total matches and only lost five with five draws. In the 1980s, Vinciquerra returned to Creighton and worked at the Kiewit Fitness Center for 14 years prior to his death in 1997.
“This school has been very good to me,” Vinciquerra said. “Everyone I meet, the alumni will do anything for you.”
Also appearing in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games was basketball player Willard Schmidt.
Schmidt, known as “Willowy Willard,” had a great four-year career at Creighton.The six-foot-nine center helped his Bluejay team earn a Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) title.
After graduating from Creighton, Schmidt played for an amateur team called the McPherson Globe Refiners, who competed at an Olympic trial and contributed to Schmidt becoming an Olympian.Schmidt contributed to a gold medal-winning team.
Scott Servais was the next Jay to compete in the Olympics. Servais was a catcher on the Bluejay Baseball team from 1986-1988 and is in the Bluejays’ Hall of Fame. Servais competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympics for the U.S. baseball team that won the gold medal.
Servais went on to play professionally for 11 seasons and is now the manager of the Seattle Mariners. His uncle, Ed Servais, is the current head baseball coach at Creighton.
Also competing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics was gymnast Wes Suter. Although Suter was a gymnast at the University of Nebraska, he later went to Creighton for law school.
Also in the Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame is outfielder Chad McConnell, who competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
During his time at Creighton, he was part of the legendary Bluejay Baseball team that went to the College World Series in 1991. McConnell was picked 13th overall in the 1992 MLB draft.
The most recent Bluejay Olympian is Gregory Echenique, who played basketball for Venezuela in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Echenique originally played at Rutgers before transferring to the Bluejay squad.
During his time at Creighton, Echenique helped the Bluejay Men’s Basketball program win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in both 2012 and 2013. He was also the first Bluejay to be named MVC Defensive Player of the Year.
“It almost doesn’t even really sink in until you’re there,” Echenique said of his Olympic experience. “It was kinda that opening ceremony, that day was when it all became pretty amazing.”
Many people might assume that Echenique’s favorite memory as a Bluejay would be winning an MVC title or being part of the big NCAA tournament wins over Alabama in 2012 and Cincinnati in 2013. However, Echenique’s favorite memory as a Bluejay was not on the basketball court, but during a sendoff for the MVC tournament rather.
“There was nothing like coming down the escalators in the St. Louis hotel and having all the fans, the band, and the dance team,” Echenique said. “Everybody just stuck in the lobby for our sendoff.”
Echenique, who still plays professional basketball in Japan, credits much of his success to what he learned while at Creighton.
“The structure [at Creighton], the discipline of being on a schedule, being on time, being responsible, it goes a long way,” Echenique said. “Sometimes doing the little things like that, they go a long way for transitioning to the professional level.”