Schuette Caps Impressive Panther Career
Dec. 19, 2012
MILWAUKEE - In life, everyone has goals they strive to attain.
Kristi Schuette sets her goals a little higher than the average person.
After graduating this past weekend, the biology major and chemistry minor will be attending Yale next year to continue her education through graduate school to become a physician assistant.
"The roots of the country come from that area. It's very neat to have a member of our program and athletic department going to such a historic institution," Milwaukee head cross country and track and field coach Pete Corfeld said. "Going back and thinking a lot of the founding fathers have connections to that university and to have a person from your program going there is pretty special. She's a special person."
A four-year standout with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's cross country and track & field teams, Schuette has been a leader for the Panthers since she set foot on campus. She helped Milwaukee to four-straight Horizon League Championships during indoor track and added two more during the outdoor season. She also led the cross country team in every race as a senior and was a consistent scorer all four years.
While her athletic career was an impressive one for the Black & Gold, Schuette will be remembered just as much for what she did off the course during her time on campus.
"Kristi has been an incredible part of our program for the past four and a half years," Corfeld said. "She has been so important to our teams and our program, not just as an athlete but as a person."
Schuette was the president of UWM's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, an active group comprised of current Panther student-athletes that works with the Athletic Department and the NCAA and coordinates ways to promote the student-athlete experience in a variety of ways.
One of those ways was by volunteering their time at the Ronald McDonald House in the area by cooking meals for families busy tending to their children away from their own homes. Schuette, along with other SAAC members, jumped at the chance to help out those in need.
"SAAC is kind of the bridge between the athletes and the Horizon League and then the Horizon League and the NCAA," Schuette explained. "Sometimes they go and vote on new rules, but we're really trying to get more involved with the community.
"I had been volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House over the summer and I saw how in need they were of volunteers at that house. The people that we were volunteering for are so appreciative and so in need because their child is very, very sick and they're emotionally drained, so when they come home and they have a warm meal made for them, they are so appreciative. That was really a cool experience."
While the Iowa City native was president of SAAC, the group also volunteered their time at soup kitchens, helped out at Special Olympics bowling event, helped to coordinate student-athlete gatherings like the Welcome Back BBQ and the Study Day Snack-a-Thon and raised money for Special Olympics by participating in the Polar Plunge. Most people don't place jumping into an icy Lake Michigan in the middle of winter as something on their bucket list but Schuette says she was more than happy to help out and it is an experience she will never forget.
"The Polar Plunge was for Special Olympics and our motto was `plunging so others can play,'" Schuette said. "For those 10 seconds that you're in Lake Michigan and it's cold and it might be painfully cold, but it's something really small in comparison with what those athletes go through on a daily basis.
"It was just something so crazy and fun to get excited about. It got a lot of enthusiasm on our side to raise money. When you tell people `I'm raising money and I'm going to go jump in Lake Michigan,' their reaction was usually, `Oh my goodness, I could never do that. Here's a dollar.' It just got a lot of enthusiasm behind it."
With only this past semester remaining before graduation, Schuette passed the SAAC presidency torch on to the next leader. That left a void in her schedule, so she rejoined her old cross country team by running with them every day and helping coach them along the way.
With their former-teammate-turned-coach helping them out this season, Milwaukee improved four spots in the league standings with a sixth-place showing at the league championships.
"To see her on the other side of things as a coach is impressive," Corfeld said. "She's helped us just a great deal this fall. You figure people are busy and have other things on the burner, but she was always there and it's just neat to see somebody give back that way so soon and so productively.
"She's a `can-do' person; always putting things in a positive light at all times or whenever possible and it showed. The team reacted to that really well and we got more out of the team because of that. It was neat to have that help and someone that wants to give back like that in such a large quantity. Looking at all the things she has going on for her future, it was hard to put coaching in there, as well, but she did it and never perceived it to be a problem or a burden."
That wasn't the only running Schuette did this past year. She completed her first marathon as part of the Paws vs. Claws Challenge issued by Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell between UWM and Concordia University as part of the Lakefront Marathon. Despite a chilly race day, she finished with a time that qualified her for the Boston Marathon this coming spring.
"I've always wanted to do a marathon and with not being in cross country this fall and Chancellor Lovell's challenge, it just worked out," Schuette said. "The Chancellor was so enthusiastic about it, being a big runner himself, so he kind of got me excited about the idea.
"There was a huge support base from UWM. They sent out tips, plans, injury prevention, what to eat, all kinds of stuff. That was a huge factor in having that large knowledge base of all the veterans the help you out."
As Schuette moves on in her career, she won't soon be forgotten around UWM.
"Kristi is a true Panther," Associate Athletic Director and Deidre Merritt said. "She completely represents what being a Milwaukee Panther is all about - hard working, competitive, team and goal orientated, and compassionate. Kristi's athletic and academic achievements speak for themselves, and through her great work as SAAC President last year we were able to do some great things in the Community. I'm excited to see what the future holds for Kristi, and very proud of her accomplishments."