Meet Vanessa Kleckner: MIAC Athlete of the Week and Golf Star

Vanessa Kleckner '12 came to St. Olaf unsure if she was even good enough to play college golf. Now, four years later, she is an MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) Women's Golf Athlete of the Week, due in part to her outstanding leadership and low scores at the MIAC Women's Golf Championship, where the St. Olaf team actually set some MIAC Championship records and ended Gustavus's 3-year winning streak.

"I feel that recieving this honor is a tribute to the hard work and determination that I've put in over four years," says Vanessa. The journey to being an MIAC Athlete of the Week was long for Vanessa, but obviously worth it. She had to push herself extremely hard, she said. "Between fall and spring practices, winter training, summer lessons, and ongoing weightlifting, I've had to put a lot of time and preparation into this sport," she said.

In addition, she's had to balance being a very busy college girl, but says she is ultimately appreciative that being an Ole athlete allows her to be a musician, a volunteer, and a student. She's a member of Vallhalla band, the Volunteer Network, the Impulse review team and an ESL tutor. As if that isn't enough, she's a math and biology double major, with an aspiration of attending medical school next fall. "Being an Ole athlete doesn't have to become my whole life here," she adds.

That being said, however, it is obvious that it certainly completes her life, and that the time and effort she puts into being so busy has paid off. While she was singled out for her personal hard work and dedication to her sport, Vanessa is also very much so a team player. "During the championship, I was focused 100% on doing well for the team," Vanessa says. "As the only senior, I tried to set an example of calm confidence for my teammates, even though I was a little nervous too." For Vanessa, being part of a team comes first. Her fellow golfers inspire her with their passion and push her to do her best, and their connections as teammates run deep. "I'm a little biased," she laughs, "but I do truly believe that we are closer to one another than most teams."

As a senior, Vanessa has to shake the imminent certainty of leaving the Hill next year. "I'll really miss the energy here," said Vanessa. "I always have lots of school-related, extracurricular, and social opportunities everywhere I turn, which makes the weeks fly by." And seeing how the weeks surely will fly by for Vanessa, it makes sense that she is already reflecting on her time her at St. Olaf. "I was awed at all the activities that a previous golf captain was involved in at St. Olaf, and she told me simply that 'You make time for the things you want to make time for,'" Vanessa smiles. "For myself then, and now, I suppose, for all Oles, who have so many opportunities, this was great advice." For Vanessa, simply figuring out her passions and investing in them made her past time at St. Olaf extremely worthwhile, and will certainly make this last year memorable as well. "Passion," she says, "is what makes the world interesting and worthwhile."

*Photo credits to St. Olaf College website