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Senior Michaela Kaliniak calls herself a little bit nuts. She says anyone who uses a long stick to launch themselves into the air must be, but that’s just the life of a pole vaulter.

An exercise science major from Sparta, Michaela is passionate about understanding the way the human body operates and especially training to achieve peak performance, both for herself and others. Competing in track and field has always been Michaela’s outlet for her passion, and also what drew her to Olivet College. After one visit, Michaela’s love for Olivet has never stopped growing.

“Track was the reason I looked at Olivet, but after my first visit it became more than just track,” explained Michaela. “I love not being another number. I like that all the Health and Human Performance professors know me and can joke with me. Those professors have helped, and continue to help, me realize what I want to do in the future whether it be sitting in Associate Professor Nancy Van Hoozier’s office for an hour just talking about life, or sitting in Department Chair Nick Juday’s class realizing this is the field I want for my future career.”

While Michaela continues her studies, with goals to graduate from OC with honors and to continue her education in Michigan State University’s’ kinesiology program, she also strives to better her athletic accomplishments. This past season, Michaela beat her personal best and even set a school record. At the Indoor Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Conference meet, Michaela cleared the bar at 10’ to place fourth, topping her previous college personal best at 9’8”. At the Outdoor MIAA Conference meet, Michaela surprised herself and catapulted over the bar at 10’6” – her lifetime best and current OC record – placing her third. In addition to pole vaulting, Michaela also competes on the track. This past season she ran a leg in the 4×400 relay as well as the 4×100 relay and loves the opportunity to support her teammates by doing so.

“The track team is different, and I don’t mean different as in odd – even though we are, I mean who wants to run for fun? Even we don’t some days – but different because we bring people who are all so different and compete in different events together and make them a family,” Michaela joked with a serious note. “At Olivet, because of Head Track and Field and Cross Country Coach Karen Lutzke, or Momma Lutzke as we call her, we are a family.”

The impact Michaela’s coaches have on her is something she is forever grateful for, and the lessons she has learned thanks to her experience as a student-athlete are what have made the person she is today: hardworking, caring, motivating, and most of all, persistent. “Michaela has the heart and desire to be the best she can be in the pole vault,” Coach Lutzke said. “She uses her knowledge in the pole vault to help others and perfect her own technique.” Further, understanding the way a coach can have a tremendously positive impact on an athlete has inspired Michaela to consider a career in coaching herself.

In addition, being a student-athlete has given Michaela a multitude of experiences beyond the classroom and track. As a member of OC’s Student Athletic Advisory Council, Michaela was elected to represent Olivet at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. At the convention, Michaela was able to vote on legislation that affected Division III athletics across the country. Further, Michaela is a member of OC’s Global Citizen Honors Program, Hosford Society of Scholars and Phi Epsilon Kappa, all groups that foster and encourage students to lead successful academic careers while providing opportunities for growth and improvement outside of the regular curriculum.

“I think it is important to be involved not only because it is a great resume builder, but also because it is a great way to meet people and make important connections,” Michaela explained. “Don’t be afraid to go out and try something new. As a freshman, I was terrified to go somewhere without someone I knew and I missed out on a lot of fun times and good opportunities because of that. My sophomore year I took that risk and met people who I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”

There’s one more risk Michaela is looking forward to her senior year: breaking her recent personal best during the upcoming season.

Learn more about joining the track and field and cross country teams at Olivet College by contacting Head Coach Karen Lutzke at 269.749.6686 or klutzke@olivetcollege.edu. Visit campus or apply now to find your fit as a Comet today! There’s still time to join the Class of 2021!

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