SE: Senior Spotlight: Erika Schiller

Leading up to Kansas State’s graduation this weekend, K-State Sports Extra will feature four student-athletes who have gone above and beyond in both competition and in the classroom. On Monday we highlighted rowing’s Meaghan Kuzmich, while yesterday’s feature was on men’s basketball guard Brian Rohleder.

For today, we talked with cross country and track and field runner Erika Schiller.

Coming to K-State from Leavenworth, Kansas, Schiller competed for the Wildcats from 2012-15. As one of the Wildcats’ top runners, she competed in every race her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. With the K-State track and field team, Schiller competed in the indoor 3,000-meter run and one mile run, while in the outdoor season she competed in the steeplechase, 1,500-meter run, 3,000-meter run, the 5,000-meter run and the 10k.

Off the track, Schiller was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll every semester during her Wildcat career. She was named an Academic All-Big 12 First Team performer in both 2014 and 2015, and she earned the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award those same two years. Schiller served as the cross country representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) where she was chosen as one of two K-State student-athletes to represent the school as a Big 12 Representative.

Though she completed her athletic eligibility after the 2014-15 season, Schiller has spent the past year finishing her studies at K-State and will graduate on Saturday with her bachelor’s degree in dietetics.

K-State Sports Extra recently caught up with Schiller. Here is what she had to say:

Sports Extra: What are your plans following graduation this weekend?

Erika Schiller: I’m going to Oklahoma State where I will be in a program with a dietetics internship along with a master’s in nutritional sciences. My first year and a half I’ll be working toward my master’s, then after that I’ll start my rotations and supervised practice in order to sit for the dietitian’s exam at the end. Overall, it’s two full years.

SE: Since you’re going to a school within the Big 12, will you try to get to any K-State games or competitions while you’re a student at Oklahoma State?

ES: (laughing) I think I’ll come back to Manhattan for the football game this year. My family wants me to experience Oklahoma State games, but I don’t know if I really could. I think it’d be cool to see the environment, but I don’t own any orange. But, if K-State is playing in Stillwater, I’ll definitely go. It’s kind of hard to take the K-State out of you.

SE: Why did you decide to go into Dietetics?

ES: I started out in kinesiology then started taking nutrition classes. The whole idea of becoming a better runner through nutrition led me to want to study it more. So then I talked to my advisor and told her I wasn’t interested in physical training. She told me about dietetics and I’ve never looked back.

SE: Did you ever use what you learned in class to help better yourself as a runner?

ES: I think with running there are some skewed ideas of what a good diet is. I was lucky to have the background of my studies. Toward the end, when I got into more specialized classes, I was able to see where I had gone wrong in the past few years and I worked on it. For my studies further, I want to specialize in sports nutrition so that I can continue learning more about that.

SE: Was it ever difficult to balance a hectic running schedule and classes?

ES: Certain semesters were worse than others, but it was definitely a balancing act. My coaches always really enforced being in class and studying hard, so that was really helpful. I definitely came into college with academics as my No. 1 priority, but I do think that over the years I learned to balance everything better.

SE: You mentioned your coaches were helpful in you putting school first. How else did K-State help you academically?

ES: One of the best things about being a student-athlete here is all the resources we have. We have Vanier (Family Football Complex) where we have access to computers and tutors. I clearly remember I took the class Human Body and the tutor we got through athletics was probably the best tutor I’ve had in my entire life. So looking back at it, if it wasn’t for athletics, a lot of things would be a lot tougher.

SE: What were some of your fondest memories running at K-State?

ES: I have a lot of really good memories from the years. We hosted Big 12s when I was just a freshman, that was one of my favorite memories. My junior year in cross country we were in third place and I’ll never forget my coach’s reaction. But most of all, I met my closest friends here. You become really close with people when you run for 90 minutes together every day, so I think that the memories I have with the girls, regardless of the hard workouts or the bad races, looking back I wouldn’t trade it because I met some of the best people.

SE: Finally, what is the best part about being a student-athlete at K-State?

ES: The overall college experience you get from it. You learn time management. You have a family right away when you get here. You learn how to push yourself to the extremes. I think K-State really treats their athletes very well and I think it just increases the overall experience. I don’t think I’d love K-State as much as I do if I hadn’t experienced it as an athlete.

It’s so cheesy and everyone says it, but it’s that ‘family’ experience. I’ve talked to people from other schools and I really do think we have a great family atmosphere.