Paving the way for future talent

Senior athletes prepare for their future as spotlight shifts to upcoming athletes.

Isabella Tranello, Staff Reporter

Gabi Stegemoller is a current senior at SPU on the volleyball team. She is planning to become a nurse after she graduates. (Courtesy of Gabi Stegemoller)

Moving on and saying goodbye is never easy. As the 2020-2021 seasons come to a close, SPU athletes have to say goodbye to their teams and decide what their futures outside of SPU will look like, while the next generation of Falcon athletes prepare to fill the gap they will leave behind.

For most seniors, the chance to compete this year was a blessing. The uncertainty of the pandemic made them doubt whether or not college sports would even take place, especially since many sports had their seasons canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Senior volleyball player Gabi Stegemoller was excited to get back on the court and compete with her teammates for the last time after getting their fall season postponed to the Spring of 2021.

“I was just happy that we would get the opportunity to compete, even if it looked different than normal years. We were even excited just to be practicing!” said Stegemoller.

Stegemoller took on quite a different role than in her previous years on the SPU volleyball team as she continued to suffer with an injury for most of the 2021 season, but she was still eager to contribute in any way that she could, as a teammate and a role model to younger players. With 228 college games of experience under her belt, she was able to guide and help the members of the team effectively.

“This season, I have found myself in a role on the sidelines. But the highlight of this season has probably been being able to help out the other younger players in my position and seeing their growth throughout the year.” said Stegemoller.

Stegemoller is not continuing in her volleyball career as a player once she graduates and is instead trading in the volleyball for a pair of scrubs.

“After I graduate, I plan to work as a nurse in a hospital setting. I do not currently have a job set up, but I have been applying to positions both here in Seattle and down in Portland, OR. Going forward, I might still find ways to be involved with volleyball once I get a little more settled into my career,” said Stegemoller.

Freshman Ellie Rising has already proved that she is going to make the most of her time as a competitor. Rising is a member of the track team and she spends most of her time working on her speed. To her it is not all about winning, but rather about self improvement.

Rising will be an important athlete to watch as she continues to grow at SPU. She had the ability to increase her speeds over several different races this year, setting new personal bests often. Rising has goals to achieve and she does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

“Next year I just hope to stay healthy and continue to improve,” said Rising. “Hopefully, I’ll be searching for a GNAC championship title and maybe a trip to Nationals as well, if not next year then the year after. My goal is to make it to at least one national meet within the next four years.”

Ellie Rising is a freshman at SPU and on the track and field team as well. (Courtesy of Ellie Rising)

In her first year as a Falcon, Rising competed in both the 800 meter and 1500 meter races. In her eleven total individual races, she never finished lower than third place. The only 800 meter race she lost was the first one in her career, and by the end of the season, she had improved her time in the race by eight seconds, becoming the GNAC champion in the race last Saturday.

Even though Rising had a great rookie season, she did not expect to achieve the accomplishments that she did.

“My first year definitely went a lot better than I expected it to. I did not think I’d end up focusing on the 800 as much as I did this season, if at all, and even if I had expected to be racing the 800, I thought it would have taken me until next track season to get down to the times I’m running now.” said Rising.

Rising has already had an impressive first year of races, but only time will tell the course of her career as she creates her unique identity as an athlete. One day she and her fellow first years will be the ones passing the torch down to the next generation of Falcon athletes, like Stegemoller and her fellow seniors.

“My coaches, teammates, and the athletic department have supported me so well over the years. My advice would be to be present and trust the process. Being able to be on a college team is a unique experience, so embrace the time you have with your teammates!” said Stegemoller.

After Stegemoller and the other senior athletes move onto the next phases of their lives, the torch of leadership will be handed down to the younger students. It is up to them to decide how they want to spend their time as an SPU athlete. Rising’s senior class has made a huge impact on her.

“We are going to miss our seniors a lot. Even though we haven’t known each other for that long, the time that we have gotten together as a full team has been such an awesome experience. I’m very sad to see the seniors go. The team won’t quite be the same without them, but I think we will still have a great team next year, even if it is a little smaller,” said Rising.