Even after admired athletes take their talents beyond St. Viator, their accomplishments still echo through the Boler Center hallway, filled from head to toe with gold and silver. The hallways only tell a part of the story though. Goal setting and difficult practices led to the success of some of Viator’s most respected athletes.
Swimmer Michael Balcerak ‘18, who currently competes for the University of Cincinnati, experienced success that he did not expect but that he attained by way of hard work.
“Shoot for high goals,” Balcerak advised current athletes. “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I never thought that I would make it to state, let alone win.”
Not only can current athletes learn to work hard for goals but also to have fun along the journey. Jeremiah Hernandez ‘19, a current Kent State basketball player, appreciates his experience during his high school career.
“My advice for current athletes is to enjoy every minute of your sport while it lasts, because you can never get those days back,” said Hernandez. “The best thing about playing for Saint Viator was representing the people that made up the school.”
Hernandez still leaves a mark on the school he represented by providing motivation for current athletes, such as senior guard Connor Kochera.
“[Jeremiah] inspires me to always work my hardest and keep pushing through when times are rough. He left a standard of excellence that we are trying to build on every year,” mentioned Kochera.
Kochera is also driven by another former Saint Viator athlete: Mike Howland ‘98 who both coached and played at Viator.
“Mike Howland was a big influence for me,” Kochera remarked. “He was such an influence that I decided to go play for him at William and Mary next year.”
Senior swimmer Luis Wendling also draws his inspiration from an alumni athlete.
“Michael Balcerak is the best example of athletic excellence at Viator,” proclaimed Wendling.
“His success came from natural ability and a crazy work ethic to harness his full potential. He had a ‘no limits’ mentality that inspired me and other swimmers to push past [our] perceived limits. It is awesome to see in almost every pool we swim in that ‘BALCERAK’ is plastered across one or two pool records.”
Another former athlete and current teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Kottra ‘00, also emphasized a strong work ethic. Mrs. Kottra was a basketball player and cross country runner who is currently honored in the school’s athletic hall of fame.
“My advice for current Saint Viator athletes would be to practice the fundamentals of your sport and improve your basic skills,” Mrs. Kottra suggested. Mrs. Kottra gave a lot to the basketball program, but also received new friendships, one being her teammate Annie Reifsnyder ‘00.
“We began as arch enemies. Annie Reifsnyder was the best player from St. James and I was the best player from St. Emily. We both made varsity as freshmen and forged a dynamic bond on the court. After four years of playing together, we knew our respected roles and trusted one another to handle any kind of adversity, thereby creating a magnetic chemistry between us. I could not have achieved my level of success without Annie’s support and leadership,” Mrs. Kottra said.
In addition to new friends, Mrs. Kottra
also found a new passion: coaching.
“I get to stay in the game even though my playing days are over and foster the same kind of passion for the game that I held as an athlete,” Mrs. Kottra said.
Many former athletes from the school have been known to be drawn to coaching. Junior basketball player, Aubrey Horbach, explained that many of the current girls basketball coaches are former Saint Viator players.
“The girls basketball team keeps the legacies of former players alive by allowing them to come back and coach,” Horbach stated.
“For example, most of the varsity coaches went to Saint Viator. Three of our coaches are alumni. Players look up to them because of their accomplishments,” Horbach hopes to become a part of a team that inspires future players like her coaches do.
“By the time I graduate, I hope to have impacted the program by being on a team that sets a precedent for the teams that follow,” mentioned Horbach.
In short, successful alumni athletes are still connected to the school through their inspiring legacies. They continue to motivate current athletes to push themselves to accomplish their goals and surpass expectations. The triumph of athletes continues to prove to be a gift that keeps on giving for the athletic program.