Baldwin Wallace University Sophomore Kara Weaver is a Difference Maker on the
Track, In the Field, and In the Forests of Oregon
Her commitment to excellence leads the Yellow Jackets to two OAC titles
By Matt Florjancic ‘07, Student Assistant
BEREA, OHIO --- All athletes enter the fields of play with a will to win that is often referred to as "burning desire" or "fire." However, few athletes are willing to risk everything in order to stop a raging fire in the middle of the forests of Oregon.
However, that is exactly what Baldwin Wallace University sophomore sprinter/long jumper Kara Weaver does during the summer months back home in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. According to Weaver, there were three choices for summer employment.
"When I graduated, I needed a job," Weaver said. "The choices were to go fight fire, work in the fast -food industry or to work in some of our lumber mills."
"I did not want to work at night so I did not want to work in the lumber mills because most college students work the graveyard shift," Weaver added. " I hate the fast-food industry and the idea of working in it really grosses me out, so I went and fought fires."
As part of the Douglas Forest Protection Association, Weaver and her crew do many tasks to aid the community.
"We just go out and try to preserve the forests from fires and upkeep the roads that way if there is a fire, we can go out and get to it," Weaver said.
She has proven herself well out in Oregon. After the track season is complete, Weaver will head west to take a class in order to become an Engine Operator, the person responsible for driving the fire truck.
Competing against raging fires is nothing new for the 20-year-old Weaver. She has been matching up against her adversaries since she was little.
"I actually ran my first track meet when I was two-and-one-half years old," Weaver said. "It was the local YMCA meet. I have three older siblings and they were all running and I whined until my parents let me run."
"I ran the 50-meter dash in 26 seconds," said Weaver said, a sport exercise/ physical therapy major. "I run track because I think it is fun and it is always a new challenge."
Weaver took this early start in track to South Umpqua High School of the Far West League.
While in the black and gold of the Lancers, she participated in soccer and track.
On the soccer field, Weaver earned four varsity letters. During her junior season, she received first-team All-Far West League and honorable mention All-State honors as a defender. As a senior in 2002, she switched to midfielder, where she made the honorable mention All-Far West League team.
These honors were very good, but they could not compare to what Weaver accomplished on the track.
In the spring of 2002, Weaver’s junior year, she garnered first-team All-Far West League accolades for her outstanding performances in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the long jump, and in the 4x100-meter relay team. Her accomplishments earned her a trip to the 2002 Oregon State Meet.
Weaver finished fourth in the 100-meter dash, which earned her a spot on the state’s honorable mention team. She was also a second-team All-State choice when she finished third in the 200-meter sprint. Weaver garnered first-team All-State honors for her second place finish in the long jump.
These achievements did not quench Weaver’s desire to succeed.
During her senior year as a Lancer, Weaver made the first-team All-Far West League in four categories, the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes, as well as the long jump. Her achievements on the track earned her the 2003 Outstanding Female Sprinter award in the Far West League. She made a return trip to the State Meet and this time, she "ran" away with a state crown.
In the 2003 Oregon State Meet, Weaver earned honorable mention status when she placed fifth in the 400-meter dash and fourth in the 100-meter dash. She was chosen to the second-team with her third place finish in the 200-meter sprint. Unlike the 2002 competition where she finished second, Weaver took first place in the Oregon School Activities Association 3A long jump event.
Weaver put up many impressive statistics and personal bests during her time at South Umpqua. She finished the 100-meter dash in 12.56 seconds. In the 200-meter run, her lowest time was 25.97 seconds. Weaver posted a personal best 60.14 seconds in the 400-meter dash. She also set a school record in the long jump with an 18 feet, five and three-quarter inch leap.
Because of her efforts on the soccer field and the track, Weaver was named the Outstanding Senior Female Athlete at South Umpqua.
Despite suffering a career-threatening injury during her sophomore year, Weaver was happy with her high school accomplishments,
"I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) my sophomore year in basketball, which took me out of a full season of track and my junior year was just to see if I could do it again," Weaver said. "It was a lot of fun being in an environment where there is so much success and encouragement by our faculty."
When it came time to choose a place to continue her education, Weaver looked at several colleges, including the University of Nevada-Reno, the University of Montana-Missoula, the University of Oregon, Washington State University, and Columbia (N.Y.) University.
After spending 18 years in Oregon, she decided to make the trip across country to attend Columbia University of the Ivy League.
"Academics made a difference in what colleges I looked at initially, but in the end, when I visited Columbia, I fell in love with the campus," Weaver said.
When she got to campus, she noticed many differences between the high school and college life-styles.
"The hardest thing between high school and college was definitely the work load academically," Weaver said. "I never had so much work in my life."
"I was doing five to seven hours of homework a day every day and I was working all weekend," she added. "An Ivy League education is just incredible and I did not know what I was getting myself into."
Despite the rigorous schedule of classes and good grades, Weaver managed to compete on the track team.
While in the blue and white of the Lions, Weaver placed fourth at the 2004 Ivy League Indoor Championship Meet in the long jump with an 18 feet, 10-and-one-half inch leap. At the Outdoor Meet, she placed second with an 18 feet, three inch jump. For this feat, she was selected to the second-team All Ivy League. She also set two school records, one in the outdoor long jump (19’4.5") and the other in the indoor long jump (18’10.5").
Then, her jumps coach at Columbia, Jeff Petersmeyer, decided to come back to his alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
Weaver was concerned that the Lions would not replace him with a "jumps" coach. When they chose a new coach, she looked into transferring.
"I wanted to have a jumps coach," Weaver said. "Columbia, while it is a great school academically, did not have the majors I was looking for."
After looking at several possible schools to transfer to, Weaver chose BW.
"It was August when I started looking around at other colleges," she said. "Coach Petersmeyer said ‘Why don’t you look at Baldwin Wallace and see how you like it.’"
Following a meeting with veteran Yellow Jacket Head Track and Cross Country Coach Bill Taraschke and another with Assistant and Sprinting Coach Craig Braithwaite, Weaver applied and was admitted to the school.
"I loved both Coach T. and Coach Braithwaite," said Weaver. "Both were straight shooters. Coach T. talked about academics a lot. Coach Braithwaite, like Coach Petersmeyer, also was a graduate who had a positive experience at BW academically and athletically. It was a good decision decision for me."
At first, it was a rough transition for Weaver to go from Columbia to BW.
"The hardest thing was the fact that I put all this energy into going to Columbia my first year and made all these new friends," Weaver said. "When I had to leave them all and come here, it was quite a difference."
However difficult the transition may have been, Weaver proved that change is not always a bad thing.
During her first season as a Yellow Jacket, Weaver led BW to the Ohio Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championship and individually earned NCAA Division III All-American accolades with an eighth place finish in the long jump at the Division III National Indoor Meet at Illinois Wesleyan University in March. She also earned All-OAC honors in the long jump and 55-meter and 300-meter dashes individually and as a member of both the 4 x 200 and 4 x 400-meter relay teams.
During the 2005 outdoor season, Weaver has led the Yellow Jackets to both the All-Ohio Division III and OAC titles and individually at the OAC Meet, she won the OAC long jump with a BW school-record leap of 19’ 1.25", placed third in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes and was on the first place and OAC record-setting 4 x 100-meter relay team (48.26 seconds).
Her coaches also have taken notice of this talented young student-athlete.
"As a person and an athlete, Kara is very intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated," said Coach Taraschke, the 2005 OAC Indoor and Outdoor Coach of the Year.
"She [Weaver] is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached," said Coach Petersmeyer. "She is a student of her sport and she wants to learn."
As the season progressed, Weaver has blended with her new team and is now just like family.
"Kara is a great competitor and leader, but more importantly she is a great, great team member," said senior men’s long jumper Ian Gibson, who also works with Weaver in the Yellow Jacket Sports Information Office. "She is always willing to help someone and is a tireless worker. She has been a great addition to the BW track program and family."
"Kara has her priorities in the right places," said veteran BW Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple. "She is always asking what else can I do to help. She is a joy to work with and outstanding to watch compete. She is a competitor in everything she does."
For her efforts this spring, Weaver has already earned the prestigious BW Paul "Sparky" Adams Outstanding Female Track Athlete Award and the Outstanding Female Jumper Award.
But her season is not over yet as she will be competing this weekend (May 26-28) at the 2005 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championship Meet at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
Weaver has set many goals for herself and the team at BW.
"On the women’s side, we did really well and hope we can continue that success," said Weaver. "I hope to see us go to Nationals in the next two years as a team and try to place in the Top 10. That would be a great accomplishment."
She not only hopes the women experience success. Weaver would like to see the men’s team make it to and compete well at the NCAA Division III National Meet.
Weaver wants to help the team in the future because she knows how much support from others can inspire an athlete.
"If I had to name one thing [that has been the biggest influence on my career], it would be my family," Weaver said. "Both of my parents are very athletic and they both competed in collegiate sports."
"My family has always been supportive of me," she added. "They are always there to celebrate my victories and comfort me in my defeats."
Weaver, who wants to pursue a career in either coaching or children’s rehabilitation, would like people to remember her as a great person, rather than a good athlete.
"It is my hope that people will remember me as being kind, caring, and always willing to help," Weaver said. "I would rather have them remember that instead of my athletic accomplishments because I think it matters more."
You can bet that with her off-season schedule and commitment to her teammates, people will remember Weaver for her efforts on and off the track.