By Tyler Sakalys-Moore '22
Kalamazoo College wasn't always the place Rachael Gallap '21 had in mind for her future. Before she visited K, her heart was set on Lyman Briggs College, a residential college of Michigan State University. Still, a last-minute visit to Kalamazoo College ended up changing everything.
Rachael, living in nearby Portage, knew of Kalamazoo College but never had much of an opportunity to visit until her mom convinced her to just so that they could rule it out. On her visit, she stayed with members of the women's cross country team as she ran for her high school and was committed to running again in college, whether that be on her own or for a competitive team. She loved the idea of running cross country for Kalamazoo, and her visit with the team and coaches only helped solidify that.
"When I met the team, that's the exact reason that I decided to come to K."
Along with the team dynamic, she loved that she would be more than an athlete at K. So often, you hear about how that line between student and athlete is very defined, but with K, she enjoyed the idea of being able to do both.
Going into her freshman year, Rachael didn't know exactly what to expect from the athletics at Kalamazoo, but she expected a dynamic similar to what she experienced in high school. She had this idea in her head that anyone could do Division III athletics as long as they played a sport in high school, but she was surprised to see that there was so much more to it.
"Even though K doesn't have a track and field team, I still run year-round."
Over the past three years of her collegiate career, she has found that this is necessary for everyone on the team to keep up with the competition. There's a broad range of talent in Division III sports, so you do find yourself competing with athletes who would be more than capable of competing at the Division I level. In high school, you rarely ran into these situations. There was more flexibility in terms of how hard you worked or how much you might have goofed around with your teammates, but this was not the case when she got to college.
Through all the challenges of being a Division III college athlete, Rachael feels as though she has gained more than she ever expected from it. She speaks about how it has helped her gain skills necessary for the rest of her life such as leadership, working in a group setting, and being able to put in work outside of the classroom.
"You're not getting paid, and you're not getting all that cool gear and everything like that," She said. "You're doing it because you like it, and it's something that you're passionate about.
"It's the best experience that you could ever have, and I think you'll meet the greatest people you'll ever meet that have the same interests, and kind of the same work ethic, but at the same time, if you're not serious and don't want to put in that extra time, it's not for you."
If you are going to put in all that work for something, you want to be passionate about it. Fortunately for Rachael, she was able to find that passion, and despite all the stress it might put her body through, she's found that it has been more than worthwhile.