Though she grew up in Gwinnett, Daria Owen's heritage is rooted in South America.
Those ties -- her father and late grandparents were natives of Guyana -- made the Shiloh grad eligible to compete for that country's fledgling national soccer team. That mission will be fulfilled this week when Owen competes in 2010 Women's World Cup qualifying matches, though her journey to this point started in December.
Shortly after finishing her career at Georgia College and State University, the midfielder was one of 27 players, ranging from 16 to 27 years old, invited to Dec. 15-22 tryouts in Guyana. Most of the players were Canadian and Owen was one of just two Americans to get an invitation.
The group competed against local clubs from Guyana and Suriname, then the players scattered back to their home countries. On Jan. 1, Guyanan national team coach Mark Rodrigues e-mailed Owen to offer her a roster spot.
She accepted the offer quickly, setting up this week's games with Suriname, St. Vincent and Cuba.
"My trip to Guyana in December was indescribable," Owen said before she left for World Cup qualifying. "The culture is rich, the food is amazing and the people are so, so friendly. As a new women's team, we have already influenced many girls and women to become involved in the sport in Guyana.
"The crowds that came out to see our games were great and kept us all motivated. This experience is greater than I could have imagined and I plan on making the absolute best of this rare opportunity."
Tide's top player
Junior catcher Brock Bennett, a Greater Atlanta Christian grad, was selected as player of the week by his Alabama baseball coaches.
Bennett hit .667 the previous week in a three-game sweep over Illinois-Chicago. In his only start, he was 4-for-5 with four runs and two RBIs. He also threw out a baserunner.
"(Bennett) was obviously the sparkplug," Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard said. "He is a guy that the team rallies around. Prior to (last weekend), he had caught extremely well in the back end of games. He runs the bases extremely well. It was a great start for him and to go out and go 4-for-5 in your first start at Alabama was something."
Georgia redshirt freshman Kevin Ruiz, a Wesleyan grad, hit first career homer last Saturday in a win over Stetson. ... Norcross grad Richard Pirkle was 2-for-4 with four RBIs and his team-leading sixth homer last weekend in Georgia College's 8-2 win over Indianapolis. Pirkle also leads the team with 21 RBIs.
Cole fourth in Big East
Louisville sophomore Aileen Cole of Peachtree Ridge placed fourth in the 100 breaststroke at the Big East Conference Championships. Her time was 1 minute, 3.03 seconds.
Cole also is on the Cardinals' 200-freestyle relay team that qualified for the upcoming NCAA Championships. Her 50 free leg was 22.74 seconds and the team's time of 1:30.03 is ranked 14th in the nation.
Butler can't stop
Despite 29 points from Norcross grad Brenton Butler, Fordham's regular season ended Friday afternoon with a 111-100 loss to Duquesne.
Fordham's loss was its 21st straight -- its last win was Dec. 8 -- and it finished 0-16 in the Atlantic 10. The last A-10 team to go winless during a conference season was St. Bonaventure in 1992-93, when the league had eight teams.
Western Carolina had a rough season, but South Gwinnett grad Emily Clarke was a bright spot. The junior's reward was an All-Southern Conference selection this week by the league's coaches.
Clarke averaged a team-high 13.2 points, eighth in the SoCon, this season. She scored in double figures in 19 games, including a career-high 27 in a win over Furman.
Former Peachtree Ridge point guard Tony Marelle, now a junior at Sewanee, was an honorable mention All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference selection this week.
Marelle, the son of longtime Gwinnett coach Joe Marelle, averaged 5.3 points and ranked fifth in the conference with 93 assists. He was second in the SCAC in assist to turnover ratio and had a team-best 20 steals. He also took 36 charges.
Gay named All-UAA
Washington University-St. Louis's Spencer Gay, a Mill Creek grad, was named to the All-University Athletic Association second team this week. The junior forward had a big second half of the season, averaging 9.3 points on a team-best 64.2 field-goal percentage.
Central Gwinnett grad Dria David had a career-high 16 rebounds, scored 12 points and dished out six assists, but it was not enough as Presbyterian College fell 70-60 to Radford last Saturday. Her rebound total was a Blue Hose Division I record. ... Ole Miss' Zach Graham, a Peachtree Ridge grad, had 16 points Thursday night in a 72-59 win over LSU. ... Parkview grad Ty Rowland averaged 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists last week to earn the Georgia College athlete of the week honor. His week was highlighted by a career-high 26 points vs. North Georgia.
player of the week
Buford grad Meaghan Reese, a junior at Truett-McConnell College, was a tough out last week and was named the National Christian College Athletic Association player of the week.
The outfielder hit .652 with a home run, a triple, five doubles, 10 runs and 14 RBIs as TMC went 5-1, securing the best start in school history.
Reese's last game of the week ended with a heroic effort as she came to the plate vs. LaGrange College with two outs in the final inning and with her team trailing 11-7. She blasted a game-tying grand slam to force extra innings, where TMC eventually won 12-11.
leads GSU win
Norcross grad Nina Iduate was named MVP, powering Georgia Southern's softball team to first place in the Florida Gulf Coast Tournament. The senior hit .562 in the tourney, scoring five runs and stealing four bases.
Teammate Brianna Streetmon of Winder-Barrow was an all-tournament selection at pitcher after going 2-0 with 15 strikeouts.
UGA to title
Georgia's softball team (13-1) went 5-0 last weekend to win the Georgia Softball Classic with the help of several Gwinnett grads.
Shiloh's Megan Wiggins led the Bulldogs in the tourney with a .462 batting average and seven RBIs. North Gwinnett grad Brianna Hesson hit .417 with a home run and seven runs scored.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.