World Class Endurance: SUU Grad sets Sights on 2014 Winter Olympics

Published: November 15, 2010 | Read Time: 3 minutes

As a freshman nursing student, Kristi Koplin hit the ground running.

From sunrise to long after sunset, she stayed busy with lab work, track and field practice, arms training and weight lifting. At day’s end, it was more of the same: homework and meetings.

And though most people would balk at the prospects of, quite literally, running through each new day at full tilt, Southern Utah University nursing graduate, top-fifteen collegiate athlete and second lieutenant Kristi Koplin is not like most people.

As proof, Koplin’s accomplishments include a cumulative 3.7 grade point average and nursing degree; a 12th place NCAA national ranking in the hammer toss; and airborne-certified second lieutenant status in the United States Army.

Though grueling, it would seem the past four years of running from classroom to practice to drills and then labs was all just a warm-up for what is yet to come as a member of the U.S. National Bobsled Team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia – a world away from the typical undergrad experience in Cedar City.

Koplin began her college career on a track and field scholarship at SUU where she enrolled in the nursing program. Always on the lookout for new challenges – a characteristic due in no small part to her upbringing in an Army family – Koplin enrolled in the ROTC program at SUU “for fun,” she says.

Full steam ahead, she dove into her college experience with an oddly singular focus: do it all.

In typical fashion, Koplin pushed her limits to become only the second female from SUU to attain airborne certification. Earning this distinction requires several jumps out of an Army plane, an incredibly taxing undertaking that requires great physical and mental stamina.

Along with high marks in her classes and the respect of peers, coaches and advisors, Koplin’s hard work paid off when she placed twelfth overall in the hammer toss at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

But she didn’t stop there. Soon after her performance at the NCAA Championships, Koplin received an e-mail from U.S. Olympic Team organizers inviting her to try out for the national bobsled team. That she had never been on a bobsled didn’t slow Koplin’s pace, and she excitedly accepted the invitation to join hundreds of other hopefuls at an open workout in Park City, UT – one of many such events held throughout the country.

Out of this field of thousands of the highest caliber athletes, Koplin was one of just 30 invited to a rookie camp in Lake Placid, NY. And like a stone rolling or, as she describes her first bobsled run, “like getting pushed down a hill in an aluminum trash can,” Koplin’s momentum kept building.

In fact, her performance at Lake Placid earned Koplin one of ten invitations to further competition where she finished in fifth place, behind silver and bronze Olympic medalists from the Vancouver games.

Since then, Koplin has officially been named to the U.S. National Team, where she will compete in several events in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. With high hopes of its standout student, athlete and second lieutenant, the Army has granted Koplin permission to delay further officer training while she prepares for competition.

In the time before Olympic training calls her elsewhere, Koplin will remain at SUU as a recruiter and instructor for the ROTC.

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