By Brent Fritzemeier
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Sometimes the term "student-athlete" seems backward. With the crowds cheering and the pep band playing the fight song, the student part of the equation may get overshadowed in the din and excitement of big-time college athletics.
This is not the case for Kansas State volleyball's JuliAnne Chisholm, whose academic major takes longer to say than the length of most points in a volleyball match. The senior is pursuing a dual major in athletic training and life sciences with a secondary major in gerontology and an outside concentration in pre-med. And if that major alone didn't impress you, now add in the fact that she has only gotten one B. Ever.
"It was a knife through my heart when it happened, but I am starting to come to terms with it," Chisholm said.
The fact that one imperfection on her K-State transcript still eats away at her gives a glimpse into the perfectionist attitude that has brought so much success to her life. K-State coach Suzie Fritz says that Chisholm is one of the brightest players to ever come through her program in the eight seasons she has been at the helm.
"The demands that she has from a volleyball perspective and the distractions that come with that are high, and she still has continued to maintain around a 3.97 GPA," Fritz said. "It's extraordinary. She is as good as they come, just an exceptionally high-achieving young woman."
As much as she is gifted academically, she is just as gifted athletically. Chisholm got her start in sports at a young age in the small town of Hillsboro, Kan. She is the youngest of five siblings, all of whom also played collegiate athletics.
"My oldest brother was a senior in high school when I was a kindergartner, so literally from the time I was born, I was going to sporting events," Chisholm said. "I basically just grew up in the gym. I was always the ball girl, water girl. Once I got to middle school, I started getting to play. I played volleyball, basketball and ran track, and I continued that all throughout high school."
No matter the high school athletic season, Chisholm dominated. She was named to numerous all-area and all-state teams in both volleyball and basketball and won seven gold medals at the 3A state track meet throughout her career. She could have played any of those sports at the collegiate level, but in the end it was volleyball and K-State that won out.
"K-State is an hour from my house," Chisholm said. "I really wanted my family to be able to watch me and be able to come to my games. K-State is just such a family atmosphere. It is really down to earth and is basically what I came from. The school just fits me, my personality and work ethic."
That work ethic is apparent when you talk to Chisholm about a typical day in her life. It all begins bright and early with a lab class. Other classes and a team tutoring session take up the remainder of her mornings. In the afternoons, she switches gears to volleyball practices and workouts before heading home for dinner and homework.
Chisholm has averaged 15 hours of classes each semester, also carrying 6 to 10 credit hours every summer. One spring she took 18 hours which, even for a woman of her focused mindset, she now admits might have been a bit ambitious.
That class load for a typical college student is hard enough. But when you add in all her volleyball team commitments, as well as time spent on the road, you realize how remarkable Chisholm's outstanding GPA really is.
"When you are gone for a game, you've got to take school with you, on the plane, on the bus, whatever it is," Chisholm said. "We just went to Hawaii, and I had my organic chemistry out on every plane ride. I had to catch up on all of those lectures; I had physics I had to catch up on. My first homework assignment was due before I even got back. There are tests sometimes on the same days as games, and you have to figure out how to get those done early.
"You really have to work with your teachers and have an open mind. You just have to take a lot of responsibility to stay on track with those things and make sure that they are done or else you will fall behind."
Chisholm is on track to graduate in the spring of 2012. She has already been accepted into a program where she will pursue her medical degree from in-state rival, Kansas.
"My hopes and dreams are to become a family physician, maybe start my own family practice somewhere in rural Kansas," Chisholm said.
She is equipped to achieve her goals. Chisholm was assigned to "shadow" a Manhattan doctor and after spending the day with him, the doctor told Fritz, "She is the brightest undergraduate student I've ever had in my office."
After leading the team in kills with 342 last season, the Wildcats will again rely heavily on Chisholm in 2010. As a senior team captain on a young team, she has big aspirations for her last season.
"I want to go to the (NCAA) tournament," Chisholm said. "I want us to finish in the top three in the Big 12. That's where we have been in the past and that is where Coach Fritz has built this program to be. It's going to be a little bit of a tough road, but I think we can do it. We didn't go to the tournament last year and that was a disappointment to us, so that is something we really want to get back to this year."