As an accomplished athlete and student, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh junior Kayla Priebe, of Appleton, has an unparalleled passion for excellence both on and off the golf course.
Priebe is described by UW Oshkosh women’s golf coach Liza Ruetten as the “ideal Division III athlete.”
“Kayla is an incredibly focused and driven student-athlete,” Ruetten said. “Her commitment to academics parallels her commitment to the game of golf.”
Dedication to the game
Priebe is a prized member of the UW Oshkosh women’s golf team, earning many significant awards and distinctions throughout her athletic career.
“Kayla was Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Player of the Year in 2016 and earned WIAC All-Conference Honors every year of her career thus far,” Ruetten said.
Priebe has also earned distinction at the regional and national level. In 2016 and 2017, she earned Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American Honors and was a member of the 2016-2017 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) All-Central Regional team.
Priebe is a successful golfer in her own right, however she is also a vital motivator for the rest of her team.
“Kayla leads by quiet example. In practice and before competition she is focused on the job at hand,” Ruetten said. “Her calm, focused demeanor helps other teammates settle down to work. She has been instrumental to our incoming freshman class this year by sending them biweekly emails during the fall semester with hints for successful navigation of UW Oshkosh as a student-athlete.”
Success off the course
When it comes to life outside of golf, Priebe uses her involvement in the sport as a way to increase her productivity.
“I think participating in golf has actually helped me be much more successful in every aspect of college, including academics,” Priebe said. “Playing a sport is a huge time commitment, but being busy helps me be much more productive with my time and to put my whole focus on what I am working on.”
Even prior to beginning college Priebe has been successful in academics. She has maintained a 4.0-grade-point average since her freshman year of high school and is a National Merit Scholar.
As a graduate of Fox Valley Lutheran high school in Appleton, Priebe credits a lot of her success to what she learned from her high school teachers.
“I was taught good study habits in high school, which have been a big factor in my success in college,” Priebe said.
The skills Priebe employs to maintain such a high level of success in multiple areas are imperative, she said.
“All the strategies I have used are methods that I have found work for me,” Priebe said. “I am a morning person, so if I have a lot of homework I’ll get up a little earlier in the morning to get it done rather than stay up later. I eat three meals a day and stay on a consistent sleep schedule. I use a planner to keep all my homework, exams, and projects organized. Finding a method that works for me has been the most important thing to staying organized and staying successful in both school and golf.”
Priebe is an accounting major and has completed a number of internships related to her field. She is currently interning with a public accounting firm in Appleton and for the coming summer will be returning to Thrivent Financial for a second internship.
“These experiences will help me decide what exactly I am looking for in an accounting career after graduation,” Priebe said. “I hope to stay in Wisconsin for my job to remain close to family and friends.”
Despite the balance between athletics and academics being challenging, Priebe said those challenges are always worth it.
“The network of supporters I have has really helped me be successful,” she said. “Succeeding in both academics and athletics is difficult at times, but it is extremely rewarding.”
Once a Titan, Always a Titan
As my career as a Titan comes to a close, I have had an opportunity to do some serious reflection on what my time at a Division III institution – and as a Titan – has meant to me. To be able to wear the black and gold for the last four years has been an absolute blessing and something that I never took for granted.
Being the hometown kid made me realize just how much being a Titan means to so many people. A classic example that comes to mind is a relationship developed over accounting and coffee. People who know me know that I enjoy doing most of my studying at the local Starbucks and while I usually prefer to keep to myself and study the latest chapters of Federal Income Tax, that all changed when an older man sporting a UW-Oshkosh coat asked if he could accompany me one day.
We introduced ourselves and began talking about our team as he noticed my Oshkosh Basketball Sweatshirt. The man’s name was Burk Tower, former College of Business Dean, and so began an interesting friendship. We saw each other once or twice every two weeks and conversations ranged from our team’s problems with turnovers, upcoming games as well as other topics like my plans for the future, family and his journey with UWO. Something as simple as those talks really made me realize just how much being at a school like UWO and being a Titan has impacted me and the relationships I have built.
Our coaching staff always preaches to our team about how we have something special here at Oshkosh; it is a big school (roughly 14,000 students) but an extremely tight-knit campus. The athletic teams are interconnected and how they all seem to feed off each other’s success is truly special. I have always felt as though it isn’t just our team of 18 guys but rather the whole athletic program in our corner and that is something powerful that I am not sure many other schools have. This type of connection leads to instant bonds with people in all of the athletic programs once you step on campus.
Finally, and part of the biggest component to my experience overall, is what it has meant to me to be a Division III athlete. I always tell people that to be a successful Division III athlete you must truly love the sport you are participating in and have an unbelievable set of teammates because there will be plenty of trials and tribulations. And if I were to write a letter to my freshman-year self, that is exactly what I would write. I would remind myself just how hard these next four years will be but also how many lessons will be learned and good times had. There will be countless 6 a.m. lifts, long practices and weekend obligations. But to go along with the hard times, there will be lifelong friendships made, cutting down nets, worldwide travel, some great wins and countless other unforgettable experiences.
To conclude, I would like to thank my family, coaches, teammates, trainers and Titan fans along with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the continuing support of Chancellor Leavitt, the many professors, and the Athletic Department. The stamp that this unique DIII and Titan experience has put on my life will impact me for the rest of my life. None of the success or fun we had would have been possible without the incredible support system we have and for that I am forever thankful.
Once a Titan, Always a Titan,
Titan Men’s Basketball
Teen “adopted” by UWO swim team seeks gold at Special Olympics USA Games
By Laurie Schlosser
A local teenager who has been training with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh swimming and diving team over the past five years will represent Oshkosh and Wisconsin when he competes in the Special Olympics USA Games July 1-6 in Seattle, Washington.
Jarod Falk, 17, is a student at Oshkosh North High School and lettered this year on the varsity swim team. He started swimming with Special Olympics and its Team Blue swim team in 2013—training each week in two sessions at Albee Pool on the UWO campus and two sessions at the downtown YMCA.
“Jarod is a fantastic athlete,” said his coach Debbie Hoff. “He gives 110 percent at every practice. He tries really hard to learn techniques to improve his strokes and times.”
Christopher Culp, head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach at UW Oshkosh, said the team works every spring with the Oshkosh Special Olympics Swimming Team. About a dozen current UWO team members act as coaches and life guards and work with Team Blue to improve their swimming strokes and racing.
“It is very rewarding and a great relationship,” Culp said.
Jarod will travel in July with 54 other athletes from Team Wisconsin to the Special Olympics USA Games, where more than 4,000 athletes from all 50 states will be represented. He will swim the 100 Free, 100 Back, 200 Free and the 400 Free Relay.
“UWO really does have a huge role in Jarod’s story,” Hoff said. “It is where he started competitive swimming, has trained for six years and the pool he considers home.”
Before starting his training with Team Blue in 2013, the only swimming Jarod had done was adaptive lessons that teach water skills and safety for individuals with special needs. He completed those adaptive lessons at age 8.
Hoff, a former competitive swimmer who has been coaching for 13 years, was inspired to work with Special Olympics because she has a cousin with an intellectual disability. She said UW Oshkosh has been very gracious with their support of her Special Olympics swim team.
Hoff said Jarod is a “great role model,” showing strong sportsmanship, effort and attitude.
“All the coaches like working with him,” she said. “He is very humble and focused.”
Jarod’s parents, Chris and Wendy Falk, are supportive and come to all his practices in their familiar spots in the bleachers. They are looking forward to watching their son compete in Seattle. “This really is once in a lifetime,” Wendy Falk said. “There’s no way I would miss it.”
Jarod said he’s never flown and doesn’t know what to expect.
“I’m very excited,” he said about plans for the trip to Seattle that combines competition with a much-anticipated, cross-country adventure with his family.
The Falks have a large contingent of relatives and friends—the group will total around 20 people—joining them on the trip that stretches from June 30 to July 7. The group includes Jarod’s parents and two younger sisters.
UWO supports Team Blue
Wendy Falk said her son’s success as a swimmer wouldn’t have been possible without the Special Olympics Team Blue program and the assistance of UW Oshkosh and its swimming and diving team.
“They are treated like athletes—they are athletes—and that is something we respect,” she said.
Jarod swims about 2,000 yards each practice for Team Blue. His high school swim workouts can be about double the distance, according to his mom. Hoff and the UWO swimmers have been helping him focus on technique and delivering the most efficient swimming strokes he can.
The high school season ends and Jarod immediately begins work with Team Blue.
Jarod said he “was born” with a strong work ethic.
“He doesn’t miss a beat,” Hoff said. “He comes into this (Team Blue) season at the top of his game.”
Jarod has his “temps”—his temporary driver’s license—and drove to Albee Pool for a recent practice. Like other upper-class high school students, he’s been on a couple college visits and thinking about future plans. One of the visits was to UW Oshkosh, alma matter of both of his parents.
Jarod said he plans to study human resource management in college.
Jarod competed at Special Olympics Wisconsin state summer games in June 2017 at Stevens Point. His gold medal in the 100 backstroke earned him an invitation to Team Wisconsin Selection Camp as a swimmer. He was one of four male swimmers selected by random draw to join Team Wisconsin swimming.
He learned he would be heading to Seattle when a school resource officer delivered a sealed envelope to his school for all to watch as he opened. The moment was captured in a YouTube video.
For all his accomplishments, Jarod was recognized at the WIAC Championships in February at Schroeder Aquatic Center in Milwaukee.
“The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and celebrate the transformative power of Special Olympics.” — Beth Knox, president and CEO, 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
What is Division III Week?
Division III Week is a positive opportunity for all individuals associated with Division III to observe and celebrate the impact of athletics and student-athletes on campus and the surrounding community.
When is Division III Week?
The 2018 celebration begins Monday, April 2 and runs through Sunday, April 8. Also during this week, National Student-Athlete Day is celebrated on April 6.
How did Division III Week come to be?
The event is part of Division III’s Identity Initiative, which was introduced in 2010 to sharpen the division’s identity and enable schools, conferences and student-athletes to consistently explain why they prefer to compete in Division III. The initiative is guided by a strategic platform that describes Division III as a place where student-athletes follow their passions and develop their potential. The approach combines rigorous academics, competitive athletics and an opportunity to pursue other interests.
What the Titans have planned for Division III Week:
Tuesday, April 3
- Jarod Falk’s special bond with the UW-Oshkosh swimming and diving program.
- POSTPONED: Baseball vs. UW-Stevens Point
Wednesday, April 4
- A testimonial from Charlie Noone, a four-year member of the UW-Oshkosh men’s basketball team. Learn why Division III and UW Oshkosh have meant so much to him.
Thursday, April 5
- CANCELLED: Softball vs. Marian University, 5 p.m.
Friday, April 6
- Student-athlete spotlight: Kayla Priebe, a junior on the women’s golf team.
Saturday, April 7
- CANCELLED: Softball vs. UW-Stout (doubleheader, first game starts at 1:30 p.m.)
- Clash’s Kids Day
Sunday, April 8
- CANCELLED: Softball vs. UW-River Falls (doubleheader, first game starts at 1 p.m.)
- Senior Day
- Women’s Tennis vs. Coe College, 8:30 a.m.
- Women’s Tennis vs. Carthage College, 12:30 p.m.
#WhyD3 on social media
- Along with showcasing #WhyD3 is important to members of our campus, we would love to hear from you. Use #WhyD3 or #D3Week throughout the week and tell us why D3 is important to you.