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Coaches ask their teams to learn from a loss.
What Kirsten Wiatrek learned from East Central’s last defeat in arguably the school’s best softball season blindsided her like a safety blitz. In fact, in ways yet to be revealed, it may have changed the course of her life.
When the Hornets lost their area-round game to Smithson Valley, and whose 2013 season continues in the Region IV finals, it wasn’t the margin of the 17-2 defeat that stung Wiatrek. What stunned the Hornets’ captain and all-state center fielder most was her unpredictable reaction to it.
“It was difficult to decide,” Wiatrek said, referring to the choice between playing collegiate softball or devoting that time to academics. “It was strange but, once we lost that playoff game, I had a sense of relief.
“I kept thinking that, if I was going to keep playing softball, I shouldn’t feel this way.”
At the time, the senior was mulling whether to accept a softball scholarship offer from St. Mary’s University. The message East Central’s valedictorian gleaned from the experience was that it was time to end her playing career.
Wiatrek decided instead to attend the University of the Incarnate Word. If she competes for the Cardinals, it won’t be on the diamond but in the classroom and possibly in cheerleading competitions.
She will major in pharmacy at UIW. It’s an academic path she couldn’t follow at St. Mary’s, a factor which complicated the decision.
“Academics, right now, is the game plan,” Wiatrek said. “I’m an early admit in pre-pharmacy. In two years, I’ll be able to enter the School of Pharmacy.
“I was really torn. The scholarship offer St. Mary’s gave me was really generous. It was hard knowing I was going to walk away from softball. But as much as I loved it, I also hated it.”
After 14 years of softball in one form or another, Wiatrek explained that she enjoyed the games much more than the practices. She also understood that college softball would require a much greater time commitment than the sport had at East Central.
“Everyone tells me that softball is like a job in college,” Wiatrek said. “With what I’ll be doing academically in college, softball really isn’t an option. If you’re not going to a (major college), you really have to love softball to play in college. I had my time with it, but I really had to walk away.”
When she was a freshman and sophomore at East Central, Wiatrek thought a legal profession might be her calling. So, when St. Mary’s came through with the offer of a softball scholarship, it reawakened her interest in that field and she entertained the idea of becoming a pre-law major.
Therefore, she was not only hamstrung between two catholic universities, but two completely different academic courses – both extremely challenging and involving.
“I probably would have walked-on at Incarnate Word,” Wiatrek said, referring to playing without a scholarship. “I wasn’t pursuing a softball scholarship until St. Mary’s wanted me. I was considering cheerleading in college.”
While East Central softball coach Bryan Waller supports Wiatrek’s decision, he knows that she was capable of performing well at the college level.
“I think she’d definitely do a great job,” Waller said, “if she had chosen St. Mary’s under Coach (Donna) Fields. I think she would be successful in whatever she chooses to do in life. Kirsten is one girl who, when she sets her mind to it, she gets it done.”
The EC alumna has everything it takes to have a great experience at UIW, according to her former softball coach.
“I see her doing exceptionally well,” Waller said, referring to Wiatrek’s academic potential. “She’s already accepted into pharmacy school there, so she has that lined up. Incarnate Word was where she had to go, because it’s one of the best for her career.”
Wiatrek plans to enter the six-year pharmacy program in her junior year. She plans to attend UIW as both a undergrad and graduate student.
“I was kind of burnt out from practicing three to four hours a day every day,” Wiatrek said of softball. “I sympathize with most high school seniors. It was time to give it up.”
Fortunately for her, there were bigger and better opportunities on the not-too-distant horizon because of an admirable track record in high school.