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Spring break at the White House: Obama honors college athletes

U.S. President Barack Obama departs after remarks welcoming NCAA champion athletes to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington March
U.S. President Barack Obama departs after remarks welcoming NCAA champion athletes to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington March

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There were plenty of college athletes at the White House on Monday, but none of the usual NFL or NBA-bound football and basketball players.

Instead, President Barack Obama recognized the achievements of college athletes not in the big-money pursuits of football and basketball, but in a range of other sports like riflery, field hockey, water polo, tennis, track and field, soccer, lacrosse and hockey.

"It is nice to be outside for a change, and spring break is underway for a lot of schools, so we thought this was the perfect time to invite a bunch of college kids over to wreak havoc on the White House," said Obama, just a week after a snowstorm paralyzed the U.S. capital. "What could go wrong?"

There was no reason for him to worry, as the athletes were uniformly well-behaved, many taking "selfies" - photos of themselves - at the breezy, seasonable South Lawn event.

Three schools had two national championship teams present: Princeton University (fencing and field hockey); the University of North Carolina (women's lacrosse and women's soccer); and the University of Southern California (men's and women's water polo).

The president, a big sports fan and father of two school-age girls, had special praise for the women athletes.

"You know, there was a time when college women's athletics was relegated to second status," Obama added. "And all of you here are showing the incredible strides that we've made over the last couple of decades. And it means that Malia and Sasha and my nieces ... they all know how important athletics is in their lives."

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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