Inspiring Student Stories from the Island University’s Rec Sports Champs

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Involvement in Recreational Sports plays a vital role in promoting physical, mental, and social well-being among college students, helping to create a holistic, enriching, and vibrant campus environment. At the Island University, many of our Rec Sports athletes find great success in regional and national competitions and gain valuable life lessons in teamwork, leadership, sportsmanship, and resilience as they proudly represent Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

This spring, Viren Patel ’24, a Table Tennis Club member, became the first Islander to qualify for the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Championships. He competed among 250 players from approximately 50 colleges and universities for national titles. Patel has played competitively in his native India since he was 13 years old and is currently ranked in the top 8 in Texas.

“Participating in the club and representing the university at competitive tournaments makes me proud,” said Patel, a computer science master’s student. “It has made me more disciplined and focused. I have developed leadership skills and learned better time management, which benefits both my academics and gameplay.”

This summer, marine biology major and Islander Rugby Club member Jeremy Romo ’24 was invited to the U.S. Rugby Combine to compete for a roster spot on the USA National Rugby Team. Romo has his sights set on becoming a professional rugby player someday.

“The experience at the combine was amazing,” Romo said. “I got to meet people from all over the nation and see several different styles of play. It helped me realize my strengths, and it made me love the game even more.”

Sports management major Tristan Hullett ’24, president of lslander Rugby, noted that in the 2021-22 season, the team was the division champion and placed third in nationals. During the season, Hullett was also awarded All­American Honors as one of the best players in America. In 2022, five Islander Rugby players were selected for the Lone Star Conference All-Star team and traveled internationally to play rugby.

“Being a leader in my sport is my pride,” Hullett said. “My friend and I even got a tattoo of the club’s logo on our legs. Rugby is a huge part of my life, and I will always love being an Islander because of it.”

Powerlifting Club member and criminal justice and sociology major Shelby Wilson ’23 is involved in several Islander student organizations, works as a camp counselor, and is a student supervisor at the Dugan Gym. Still, she finds time to participate in intramural sports like dodgeball, volleyball, and softball. In mid-December, she plans to compete in her third powerlifting competition, the 2023 USA Powerlifting Collegiate Cup.

“Powerlifting has broadened my Islander experience into the world of competitive sports and has allowed me to meet some great people and create unique memories at the university,” Wilson said. “It has provided me with a community of like-minded people with similar physical goals to provide support and motivation, increase my self-confidence, and empower me as a woman in and out of the gym.”

Fellow Powerlifting Club member Alysha Rodriguez ’23 competed in the 2022 USA Powerlifting Texas Open, where she placed third, and the 2023 USA Powerlifting East Texas Open, where she placed first.

“The challenges and discipline required in powerlifting have helped me develop resilience, focus, and determination,” said Rodriguez, a biomedical sciences major. “This mental strength complements my physical gains and contributes to an overall sense of well-being and confidence in both mind and body.”

Another club sport unique to campus is angling. The Islander Anglers group competes in fresh and saltwater fishing tournaments and even hosts their own tournament two times a year. The club brings in world-class anglers and rod manufacturers from across the Coastal Bend as guest speakers to share their knowledge and techniques.

“I have become a better fisherman thanks to the knowledge and experience of other members,” said John Neblett ’24, business major and Islander Anglers president. “This club has also helped improve my public speaking and marketing skills as we work to grow the club.”

Islander Anglers also helps to preserve the area’s natural resources by participating in the catch, tag, and release program run by the Center for Sportfishing Science and Conservation at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.

“I have made so many new friends in the Islander Anglers,” said business major Megan Little ’24. “The number of connections you can make through this club is very high, and the best part is that if you like to fish, it’s a perfect conversation starter.”

Under the Division of Student Engagement and Success (SEAS), the TAMU-CC Recreational Sports program is a member of the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association. The university provides the facilities, equipment, and opportunities to participate in a variety of sports, recreational, and social activities for all ages, skill levels, and interests. In fact, if students fail to find a club that interests them, they are encouraged to start their own.”



Pickleball, the nation’s fastest-growing sport, is steadily gaining popularity at the Island University An intramural league is regularly hosted at the Dugan Wellness Center, and net sessions are often available during open recreation times.

TAMU-CC is also home to national pickleball champion and computer science major, Carl Hilliard ’23, who, as of July 2022, was ranked No. 91 in the world in men’s professional pickleball singles In April 2023, Hilliard competed in the prestigious US. Open Pickleball Tournament, and in July 2023, he competed in the APP NextGen Tournament, an elite tournament for players under the age of 24, where he earned the gold medal in men's singles.

In addition to giving pickleball lessons at the Corpus Christi Country Club, Hilliard recently completed a successful internship as a cybersecurity analyst at the Port of Corpus Christi. He is also currently working part-time as a cybersecurity analyst at the Maritime Transportation System Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MTS-IS.AC) Post-graduation, he hopes to continue this work at MTS-IS.AC, along with progressing his pickleball career at the national and international levels.