Elgin Academy duo savor Division-I opportunities

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/17/2014 9:15 PM
  • Kaitlyn Pearson

    Kaitlyn Pearson

  • Allyson Wittmeyer

    Allyson Wittmeyer

Talk about quick studies.

Elgin Academy seniors Kaitlyn Pearson and Allyson Wittmeyer signed National Letters of Intent Monday to continue their athletic careers -- Pearson in track and field at Illinois State University and Wittmeyer in rowing at the University of Iowa.

Both are realizing dreams of competing in college athletics after relatively short periods of time in their respective sports.

"When I was playing other sports, people told me I was really fast," said Pearson. "They said I had good athletic ability. My mom said I should try track. I pushed against it. It ended up working out."

Pearson has been doing track and field since early this year. She previously played soccer, volleyball, basketball and field hockey.

"It's really cool that this happened so quickly," she said. "But I've also had a lot of support behind me and that's made it a lot easier. I've put in a lot of work."

Pearson, who finished third in the state in the 100 meters in Class 1A this past spring and also qualified for the state meet in the 200, said a number of colleges showed interest ranging from Division III to Division I programs.

"I first went on an unofficial visit to ISU and met the coach," she said. "At that point I thought, 'This could work.' The academics there are good and the coach talked about academics before track. They have amazing facilities and the school is beautiful."

Pearson said she would like to study athletic training.

"This all seems surreal to me," she said. "My dad (Bill, football at Holy Cross) was a scholarship athlete in college playing football. To have two Division I athletes in the family is really cool."

Pearson is looking forward to the upcoming track season.

"I'm starting to train to get ready for the indoor season," she said. "I am running with another school (Evanston Township) in some of their open meets (because Elgin Academy does not have an indoor team). I'm extremely excited about the upcoming season. I'm also kind of nervous because the bar has been set so high. I want to put in the most work I can. I definitely want to keep improving."

Wittmeyer's quick journey into rowing prominence started from a conversation in school.

"The director of admissions at the school mentioned there was a rowing club starting in St. Charles and that I should look into it because of my height and my length," she said. "I looked into it and gave it a try. I went to a barbecue there and one of the coaches said I should go to practice and see how I liked it. The first week, I hated it. I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever done. It was so difficult and complicated and I couldn't understand it. But I started learning it and fit the pieces together and by the end of the season I liked it a lot. By the fall (of this year) I decided to do rowing full time."

Wittmeyer, who started in rowing the beginning of her junior year at Elgin Academy, just finished what is known as her novice year in the sport (first year).

"I would probably say I'm very ardent and enthusiastic about rowing," she said. "It's unlike anything I've ever done. It's fascinating. A lot goes into making sure the boat works from matching up muscles on the boat to having the right equipment and materials. Rowing teaches you focus, commitment and determination."

Wittmeyer, who rows starboard side with the oar to her left (she sits 3-set in a four-person boat and 5-set in an eight-person boat usually) for the St. Charles Rowing Club, said Iowa reached out to her after seeing her profile on a recruiting website. Iowa rows on the Iowa River.

"They said they were looking for people with my height and abilities," she said. "I went on an official visit and loved the campus. It was exactly what I thought a college would look like. The coaches were wonderful and I could see myself being a part of the team. It was a great fit."

Like Pearson, Wittmeyer also dabbled in a variety of sports prior to rowing, including volleyball, basketball, soccer and travel soccer.

"It was a very difficult decision to give those sports up," said Wittmeyer, who said she may go in as a pre-business major at Iowa. "I knew I couldn't focus on all of them. Now I have an amazing opportunity to hone in on my abilities in this one amazing sport."

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