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|She's the golden girl, with the golden arm, a golden jump shot, |
golden hair (okay, more strawberry blonde than golden), the golden
smile, and a personality that's as golden as it gets. She's Katie
Schumacher, the latest two-sport athlete to hit the University Park
campus, and a person that everyone should be fortunate enough to get
to know. It would be easy for any Penn State fan to get caught up in
merely the athletic accomplishments of Schumacher's illustrious
college career, but in many ways, it's how she has handled herself as
a person and affected others so positively that may leave the most
permanent stamp on Happy Valley.
Happy Valley is an aptly named place of residence for Schumacher, whose engaging personality and warmth are present the second she steps into a room. The six-foot outside hitter from Chicago, Illinois, greets you with a firm handshake, and looks directly at your eyes while entering into conversation. It's almost intimidating, until she breaks into a disarming smile that has been known to relax the atmosphere at volleyball practices more than once.
She arrived as a freshman from Mother McAuley High School in Illinois, and decided to immerse herself in everything Penn State- the sports, the town, the people- you name it, and she went after it.
"When I got here, I just made up my mind that I was going to meet as many people as I could, and do as much I could. The more you're around different kinds of people, and the more you put yourself in different situations, the quicker you grow up and learn more about yourself", Schumacher said when asked about her approach to college.
"I've been so blessed to be around the kinds of people I've been surrounded with here at Penn State. Between Coach Rose and Coach Portland, and my teammates on both teams, and the other friends I've made, it couldn't have turned out any better."
It's clear that Schumacher never lets things come to her, rather, she goes right after them, wringing out every ounce of positive energy or experience from any situation she puts herself in. For example, imagine the transition from being a superstar on the volleyball court, a person your team depends on in clutch situations, to being a basketball player whose role is to provide key minutes off the bench in short stints here and there.
"I saw it as an opportunity to learn from a great coach, be part of a truly great program, and also to make a lot of new friends," said Schumacher, who garnered All-American honors for the second time in her career. "It was a great experience for me, and I know that when the volleyball season ends, I'll be excited to get out and play
basketball for another season".
Before she hits the hoops hardwood though, Schumacher hopes to make some more noise in the volleyball world for one more season. After winning the program's first national title two years ago as a sophomore, Schumacher entered the 2000 season as an upperclassman that not just younger players, but the entire program looked to for leadership and performance. The golden personality shined brightly again, as she helped to ease the freshmen into the program, including highly touted but inexperienced newcomers Cara Smith and Jess Hayden.
"I'm not really a rah-rah kind of leader. I tend to stay positive and keep everyone smiling. There's a time to be focused and get the job done, but I try to just keep people relaxed and happy", she says with
The importance of her leadership was not lost on the freshmen, either.
"Katie is so great to be around, especially from an experience standpoint", said Jess Hayden, a freshmen during the 2000 campaign. "She knows what we're going through and how to handle it, and she's great at taking each individual person and doing what it takes to make THAT person feel good, or THAT person comfortable."
Fellow freshman Emily Gerega also had a deep appreciation for
"She's a leader in so many ways; she's a very physical leader by the way she handles herself on the court and how positive she is, and at the same time, she's a great leader in the mental aspects of the game and how to get through the difficulties you face early on as well", Gerega said. Schumacher's hardly lacking for a fan club off the court as well. Her roommate for all five years at Penn State, Nadia Edwards, said being around Schumacher is always entertaining, and always fun.
"Katie's the kind of person that you can't be mad at for too long. She might do something to upset you, but then she'll do something so completely funny and goofy that you just end up laughing together. I've loved being her roommate, and even if we weren't teammates and only knew each other off the court, it would be just as easy and enjoyable to be her friend", Edwards said.
So as she looks ahead to the 2001 athletics season, Schumacher looks down at the shamrock pendant she received from her grandmother, smiles widely and says "I think it's going to be a great year. I have no doubt, and I think everyone involved with our programs will have a great time".
Penn State will always have its great ambassadors and Katie Schumacher is certainly included in that group. The next time you see her walking down the street, give her a smile and a wave, and you will surely get one back. You'd better do it quickly though, or Penn State's golden girl might beat you to the punch.