For the Love Of the Game

Momei Qu is leading the way in academics and athletics, shining in each arena.

A course load of 25 credit hours is demanding enough for most college students, but factor in senior Momei Qu’s demanding schedule as a member of the University of Illinois women’s tennis team and a challenging double major such as computer engineering and business finance and it’s a wonder there are enough hours in the day to accomplish it all.

“When you know something has to be done, you can always find time to do it,” says the Beijing-born Qu, whose dedication to academics and athletics has made her a stand-out student-athlete for the Fighting Illini. “I get antsy if there is free time during my day. I can never just sit there and watch TV.”

Qu, who started playing tennis at age 10, has been recognized the last two years by Diverse as an Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar nominee, but this year she has been named the 2008 Arthur Ashe Female Sports Scholar of the Year.

“As a student-athlete she epitomizes the ideal individual,” says Shari Clapp, Qu’s academic advisor and who nominated her for the Ashe award. “She’s a strong young woman, and it was an obvious nomination in my eyes.”

Qu has been called the “most consistent contributor for the Illini in 2007,” posting a 17-11 record this year while maintaining a 3.9 cumulative grade point average. Qu’s achievements have gained national recognition. She was named to the first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 5 twice and the Academic All-Big Ten twice. She was also voted the Illini Player to Watch in 2004 and is a three-time Intercollegiate Tennis Association Academic Scholar Athlete.

“She has a consistent game, she’s extremely fit and she can outlast her opponents,” says Michelle Dasso, Qu’s head coach. Dasso says Qu’s teammates respect her hard work on and off the court.

“They respect her because she’s a true student-athlete. She cares a great deal about school, internships and graduating. They look up to her for that,” she says. Because of Qu’s challenging academic regimen this semester, she was forced to miss most of the team’s practices. As an alternative, she practiced at 6:45 a.m. twice a week. “It’s hard for me to imagine that she got much sleep,” Dasso says.

The 5’3” tennis star from Portland, Ore., has found time to add to her already extensive résumé with her community service work. Qu has been involved with many community service initiatives including Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, the Prairie School African- American Reading Month Event, and the Asian American Cultural Center visit.

So just how does she juggle so many activities and excel at each one? Qu credits much of her success to her parents.

“My parents want me to play a sport because they know it will make me physically and mentally tough, even after I stop playing it,” says Qu. As for her academics, she says her parents instilled in her a great respect for education. “I would say they’re the No. 1 reason I have achieved so much academic success,” she says. “They never pressured me to do anything, but always held academics in such high regard and did whatever they could to help me succeed, and showed pride when I did. They expected me to be the best, and I believed that I was as a result.”

Qu’s future plans include pursuing an MBA, but first she’ll be heading off to New York to join the investment banking division at Merrill Lynch. She says her love for tennis is here to stay.

“I don’t think I will ever stop playing tennis. It’s been such a big part of my life, and I love how it’s a lifelong sport that I can compete in many years after my college career is over.”

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