March 24, 2023
WKU volleyball player Isenbarger flies high in NCAA track and field

One is his ardour. One is his expertise.

On the softball court docket and excessive soar bar, Katie Isenbarger skilled the very best of each worlds in Western Kentucky. And he or she was fairly good at each.

On Saturday, the 1.8-metre Isenbarger will race for the second time. NCAA track and field indoor championships He’s in search of the glory of second All-American in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and within the excessive soar. Final spring, he entered the competitors at fifteenth place and completed fifth. (The highest eight earn All-American standing.)

“I used to be very stunned and delighted,” mentioned Isenbarger of final yr’s efficiency. “Actually, I used to be blissful to be there. As one of many prime 16 jumpers within the nation, I used to be very excited to be amongst all these women.

Going to the 2023 indoor championships, the Zionsville product of Indiana broke the WKU report 1.84 meters (about 6 toes, ¼ inch) at Bellarmine and received the US Convention championship (1.80). She at the moment holds the report for the highest 5 indoor excessive jumps in WKU girls’s historical past. He additionally holds the highest 4 outside grades, 5-11½ at finest, together with setting a 40-year report within the occasion as a freshman.

She completed her excellent volleyball profession within the fall – the Hilltoppers received 132 video games and took part in 4 NCAA Tournaments in her 5 seasons – incomes third second-team All-CUSA honors.

Katie Isenbarger / Wyatt Richardson, WKU Athletics

He averaged 1.61 kills per set (0.363 hits) from his mid-position and led the workforce and completed second within the convention on blocks (1.23), which is much more spectacular contemplating he is an All-American middleweight and two-time co-op. C-USA Participant of the Yr Lauren Matthews.

Her stardom in two sports activities is harking back to Michigan’s Claire Kieffer-Wright, who led the Wolverines volleyball workforce in blocks in 2016-17 and later received the Large Ten excessive soar title.

“He was a terrific blocker for most of the similar bodily traits that made him a very good excessive jumper,” mentioned WKU coach Travis Hudson. “He is a very ‘versatile’ child. Laterally nice. He by no means provides up on a recreation. He is simply flying round.

Hilltoppers athletic director Brent Chumbley marvels at Isenbarger’s success in two Division 1 sports activities.

“We have had some twin sports activities athletes in my teaching profession, however to be sincere, none of them have been at Katie degree,” mentioned Chumbley, who has coached observe and subject for almost 25 years. “He is a starter on a fantastic volleyball workforce and an All-American excessive jumper, so that does not occur fairly often.”

Isenbarger mentioned his aggressive streak is pure. His father, Phil, was the senior assistant captain of Indiana’s 1981 NCAA championship basketball workforce, headed by Isiah Thomas. His mom, Jenny, is a marathon runner and has two older brothers, Matt and Jack, the second an expert basketball participant in Australia.

He mentioned he tried nearly each sport he might whereas rising up, however in highschool he settled on three sports activities: volleyball, basketball, and observe and subject. In his senior yr, he left basketball to give attention to volleyball and excessive soar.

However what to do at college?

“I at all times knew I needed to play volleyball (in school),” she mentioned. “Even in center college, this was at all times a plan behind my head. Once I was in highschool, I spotted that I used to be really higher at excessive soar. So volleyball is extra of my ardour and athletics and excessive leaping is one thing I am extra expert at.

“It was type of in direction of my third, senior yr, each time the hiring course of for volleyball began – as a result of I knew that was what I needed to do – I needed the universities (they) to let me excessive soar for the observe.”

Hudson mentioned he simply wasn’t open to it. She even inspired it when she went to see him twice competing within the Indiana highschool observe and subject championships.

However he had a pleasant warning for Chumbley and his workforce. Describing Isenbarger as “a really sociable child”, she mentioned she believes that is one of many important features of volleyball that attracted her. Isenbarger agrees, saying he likes the workforce facet of volleyball.

In the meantime, athletics could be isolating, with athletes coaching in small exercise pods quite than a unit. For instance, there are solely two feminine excessive jumpers in WKU.

“I had a chat with the observe coaches and I used to be like, ‘Look, if you’d like this to be one thing he is been doing for fairly a while sooner or later, my recommendation to you is to maintain it mild, as a result of if it does it is an excessive amount of of a burden and you make him select, I feel he’ll decide volleyball,'” Hudson mentioned. “It nurtures your character so significantly better.

“The liberty to do it the way in which he did it actually labored effectively when it comes to getting the whole lot achieved.”

The outcomes go away little room for dialogue. Isenbarger has dealt with each with confidence, and his efficiency within the excessive soar could stand out extra as a result of restricted time he has dedicated to it.

Because of the pandemic, it basically misplaced two seasons of excessive soar competitors: one when the 2020 outside season was canceled after which in 2021 when volleyball was pushed into spring.

Even within the “regular” years, Isenbarger was taking restricted work with the observe workforce. Spring volleyball follow typically left him simply someday to work on the excessive soar.

Nonetheless, whereas the excessive soar is a particularly technical occasion, most of the similar mechanics apply to it and volleyball.

“There was quite a lot of overlap in what to do correctly in weight room coaching,” Hudson mentioned. “Volleyball is a leaping sport. He is actually good on one leg in volleyball, and that interprets into the mechanics of leaping a bit of over the excessive soar bar.

However each coaches agree that what units Isenbarger other than many athletes, greater than something bodily, is his skill to seem to face up to strain.

“I feel Katie’s largest benefit is her very quick reminiscence,” mentioned Chumbley. “If he makes a nasty splash, it will not have an effect on him in any respect. If he has unhealthy follow, it does not have an effect on him in any respect. Sure, it depends on the truth that I can soar, so a nasty soar does not matter.

“He goes on the market each day with a fantastic perspective. He’s simply one of many athletes that coaches dream of getting.”

Hudson added: “He isn’t a child who feels any weight on his shoulders. He is a really blissful child, so it by no means felt overwhelming to him. He by no means felt unprepared. He is only a child who rolls over there and lets it fly and sees what occurs.

“Given the comparatively small period of time he spends on the observe, you’d suppose it might be quite a lot of strain for him to not be ready. However he simply does not really feel these pressures.”

This has helped him do his finest in probably the most vital instances.

Hudson mentioned he confirmed him statistics from common season video games and postseason (convention event, NCAA) video games. With out exception, he mentioned their postseason percentages had been higher.

For instance, in 2022 it reached .363 in the course of the common season. He surpassed that in two of three C-USA Match video games and one of many Hilltoppers’ two NCAA Match video games.

Exhibit B, after all, climbs 10 locations from the pre-event standings to complete on the rostrum within the 2022 NCAA indoor excessive soar.

“Very attention-grabbing,” he mentioned. “Travis has pulled out the stats earlier than and mentioned, ‘Take a look at your convention event stats and have a look at your NCAA stats versus your season stats.’ And yearly. I assume it is simply the adrenaline of championship time. I am simply enhancing on that.

Hudson mentioned: “I really appeared again and through his four-year profession, his numbers had grown considerably when it got here time for the event. He is been nearly 100 factors increased career-wise within the convention and the NCAA Match than within the common season, and I feel that is his skill to deal with strain.

“… He simply stepped up and performed at a better degree. And I feel that is each coach’s dream: A child who will step up his recreation in crucial instances.”

Isenbarger will try to do this once more this weekend as he enters the NCAA excessive soar as No. 14.

This spring, she was in a position to commit extra time to the excessive soar as she had now exhausted her volleyball proficiency. He has the outside season forward, too, and if he needed to, he would have had an extra yr of observe and subject eligibility after sporting a pink shirt in the course of the pandemic.

However Isenbarger mentioned he is in all probability achieved with aggressive athletics after the outside season. She has already accomplished her BA in sports activities administration and occasion planning and is about to complete her MA in sports activities administration.

He mentioned his dream job can be to work on an expert sports activities workforce in a sure capability, maybe in occasion planning.

“I feel I am able to dive into the ‘turf’ leagues and play (volleyball) only for enjoyable,” he mentioned. “Clearly I am open to (enjoying professional) if something occurs. It is the identical with athletics as a result of there are skilled methods for that too.

“However I will in all probability retire on the finish of my observe season right here and I will be formally achieved.”

So with all that he is achieved, what’s left to perform?

Isenbarger does not set huge objectives aside from to beat the 6-1 (1.86 meters), which he says he achieved in highschool however has but to succeed in in school. Its finest worth was 1.85, which is roughly a quarter-inch lower than its magic quantity when transformed from metric.

He mentioned he needed to regain All-American standing, and provided that he is managed to indicate up within the moments that matter most, it is in all probability not smart to guess towards him.

Chumbley mentioned he would not overtake him to win the NCAA title.

“Something can occur each day, and that is the beauty of Katie, she’s not nervous. The massive stage does not have an effect on him in any respect,” he mentioned. “So it would not shock me if he wins (wins), however on the similar time, realistically, judging by the nation’s jumpers, another person within the prime 5 can be a very good weekend for us.

“He’s constant. It jumps effectively all yr spherical. And quite a lot of jumpers will make that huge soar all yr after which panic. … He goes out and executes each time.

“He’s a 4.0 pupil. He’s engaged on his grasp’s diploma. Everybody likes to be round Katie. He at all times has a smile on his face. Very energetic in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She is just about the gold commonplace in what you desire a student-athlete to be.”

Katie Isenbarger of WKU raises the bar

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