Jackrabbit Journal
My Summer Internship by Megan Stuart
Earlier this Spring I was accepted into the Sanford Arts in Healthcare internship program in the Sioux Falls Sanford Hospital. I had a feeling the opportunity would leave an impact, but stuart artno idea how much. I have been a part of the program for a little over a month and a half, and the people I have met, the stories that I have heard and the experiences I have been a part of are memories that I will absolutely cherish. Every day at the hospital just keeps getting better. I get to create art all day and see the difference that I can make in someone’s time at the hospital. I have learned how powerful art can be, from the way it can bring light to a child’s eyes, or a friendly distraction from a hospital setting, to a symbol of inspiration and strength for a patients journey. Every day we work with patients, family members and even healthcare employees creating art in mostly the Cancer Center, but also the main hospital and the Children’s Hospital. Some of the projects we have done are painting, paper-crane folding, friendship bracelet making, doodling and molding clay. In the Cancer Center lobby as well as other locations in the hospital there are pieces displayed where patients and artists collaborated to create amazing artwork. I am a biology pre-medicine and studio arts double major going into my senior year, and this internship couldn’t have been more perfect. I have had the ability to experience a healthcare setting as well as create art, which I love to do! I’m not quite sure what I will do when my years are done at SDSU, but I think art therapy may be an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

Discovering Your Passions by Megan Stuart
South Dakota State has given me many great opportunities to pursue my goals and dreams both academically and athletically. I feel so blessed to be a part of a program that takes so much pride in helping their student-athletes reach their potential even beyond an undergraduate degree. I am currently pursuing a Biology, Pre-Medicine degree with a Studio Arts minor. Science and art are two subjects that have always sparked my interest. My passion for the medical field started even before elementary school, when I used to dream about being a doctor by drawing myself in a white lab coat and a stethoscope. Through middle school and high school I couldn't get enough of the sciences. I took almost every science elective they offered. I had two Biology teachers my junior year in high school who inspired me to pursue pre-medicine/biology as a major. At first my interest for art didn’t go much beyond random doodles in my notebooks. But as I was taking courses in high school that would better prepare me for a pre-professional program, physics was a recommended course to take.

The idea of taking physics was just not exciting to me at the time. What I really wanted to try was a painting class. After endless thought and discussion with my parents I took the painting class and that's when I discovered my passion and talent for painting. My high school art teacher pushed me and guided me to produce pieces of art that I never thought I was capable of creating. Now as a Junior at South Dakota State University I am studying the two things that I love to learn about most, biology and art. The pre-professional program at SDSU has given me opportunities that have impacted me in incredible ways. Two summers ago I took a medical mission trip to Mombasa, Kenya with 18 other pre-professional students from SDSU. We shadowed physicians in the hospitals, provided simple medical services at the clinics, passed out hygienic supplies in a small village and painted an orphanage. I learned quite a bit about myself, and about medicine, when I was half a world away from everything that I knew. The experience lit a fire in me to someday have the ability to a make larger impact by participating as a doctor in organizations that give medical aid around the world. Also through the Biology Department, I have been lucky enough to be a part of the anatomy internship program where I help other students understand the material and even get hands-on experience with human cadavers.

The faculty involved in the anatomy program have helped me grow as a student and a teacher to my fellow students. My decision to add a Studio Arts minor has fueled my passion as a painter and an art student. I love to paint and I can spend full days with a canvas and paint. An empty canvas for me is the perfect stress reliever and a creative outlet. My favorite part about art is sharing my finished pieces with other people. When I can convey emotion in my paintings and create emotional feedback, it’s one of the greatest feelings I know. I’m excited to be building relationships with the professors and students in the Studio Arts program. I find myself using my free time to go to the classroom and just paint whenever I can. I love both biology and art, and I hope to keep both in my life. Someday I would like to look into combining both passions and exploring medical illustration. It is exciting to be able to pursue my educational goals and be a student-athlete. Playing college basketball has been something I’ve dreamed about my whole life, and I’m here, enjoying every second of it! The team is my family away from home and being a student athlete has taught me so many things that I can’t even begin to explain. My experience here will help me far beyond my last steps in Frost Arena or on this campus!

Kerri Young and her start at SDSU
Coming out of High School I knew I wanted to go to college somewhere close so that my family would be able to support me. When Coach Johnston asked me to be a part of the Jackrabbit basketball team I knew it was the perfect fit. I was very familiar with South Dakota State University because both of my brothers go there. They always told me about the great things that SDSU had to offer. There were also many occasions where I would come up to SDSU to watch athletic events. This helped me to become familiar with the campus.  I have always looked up to my older brothers and I knew being close to them was important. On top of this, having the opportunity to play Division I basketball helped me in making my decision. Also, since I am from South Dakota I was well aware of the great success by the SDSU Women’s Basketball team. Getting the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament and playing in “THE BIG DANCE” has always been a dream of mine. I am excited to play against some of the best teams in the country and help put SDSU on the map as one of the elite schools.

Going through the first part of the season I will admit that all of my expectations of SDSU basketball have been met. I knew right away it was going to be different compared to high school. The pace of the game is faster, girls are bigger, and every night you have to come out ready to play your best. Being a freshman in an elite Division I program can sometimes be stressful and demanding. However, I am blessed to have such great teammates that have helped make the transition very comfortable. Coming up to SDSU in the summer was also very beneficial. Getting the chance to get a head start on school was helpful, but also having workouts with the coaches helped me ease into what the season would be like.

Right now, the season is still young, but we have a great team with a lot of potential. I am excited to see what the rest of the year will bring. Every day I am thankful I made the decision to come to SDSU. It is a great place to not only play basketball, but get an education as well. SDSU has so much to offer and I hope to contribute to the continued success of the basketball program. I plan to act as a positive role model for all the other South Dakota girls out there who have dreams of coming to SDSU to play Division I basketball. Remember, “GO BIG, GO BLUE, GO JACKS!”

Megan Waytashek and the balance at SDSU

B.E.E.F is an acronym commonly used in basketball. In order to be a productive shooter, a player must put every aspect of B.E.E.F into action. I believe that the concept of B.E.E.F can also be applied to the life of a student-athlete.

B: Balance. If a player is not in a balanced position when they play, more likely than not they are going to be knocked over. Life is the same way. Someone without balance in his or her life is in for a long haul. Balance is one thing that our women’s basketball program strives for. Obviously school and basketball is a large part of being a student-athlete, as the name speaks for itself. However, our program also places a great emphasis on aspects outside of the classroom and Frost Arena. Community service is a priority of ours. Over my three years of being a Jackrabbit I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, the elementary and middle schools in Brookings, the Boys and Girls Club, the Children’s Museum, and many more. The community of Brookings supports our university and basketball program beyond words that we love to give back and volunteer.

E: Eyes. Keep your eyes on the prize whether that is the rim of the hoop or your goals in life. South Dakota State University has been a huge impact in helping me achieve my goals both athletically and academically. Being a Mechanical Engineering student and a Division I athlete definitely keeps me busy. Although my major may be more rigorous than other areas of study, the coaching staff values my goals and helps me achieve them. They are very accommodating to class times and extra curricular events related to my education. On top of class and labs I am a part of Pi Tau Sigma Engineering Honor Society and a member and secretary for Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. I am also doing undergraduate research with one of my professors on campus. Our women’s basketball program allows me to keep my eyes fixated on my career goals while participating at the highest level athletically.

E: Elbow. For good shooting form a player must keep their elbow in line with his or her body. In order to be a successful student-athlete one must keep his or her priorities in line. Time management is the key to this. Being good at managing my time has been my golden ticket in college. I am able to partake in societies and clubs, volunteer within the community, improve my basketball game, and still have time to hang out with my family and friends and be a college student.

F: Follow through. The final result in a player’s shot is their follow through. A shot must be right on to count. I relate this concept to my life as well. In order for my college career to be all that I want it to be, I believe that I have to follow through with my goals and make my time as a Jackrabbit count. I have learned to take each day individually and make the most of every opportunity that I am given.

With that said, I am looking forward to an exciting year of Jackrabbit Women’s basketball. Go Jacks!


Tara Heisler on the Jackrabbit family

What does being a Jackrabbit mean to you?

I have dreamt about being a Jackrabbit ever since I stepped foot in the gym back in the 2nd grade. I was the girl who attended Jackrabbit summer camps from 2nd grade all the way up until my senior year in high school. SDSU has been the place where I have always belonged. Being a Jackrabbit to me means I am living up to and following in my family’s footsteps. My mom, along with many of her siblings played some sport at SDSU. These sports include softball, football, baseball and of course, basketball. My aunt, Karla Stevenson, was inducted into the SDSU Hall of Fame last year for her outstanding basketball career as a Jackrabbit. Being able to continue this tradition for my family and being a Jackrabbit is a dream come true.

Talk about the SDSU fans and community of Brookings.

The SDSU fans and the community of Brookings are wonderful! They are everything you can ask for as an athlete.

One of the best things about being a Jackrabbit is the continued support and love from the Brookings community and all of the SDSU fans. I have always felt at home as a Jackrabbit as the fans really embrace us as people. I will always cherish the people I have met and the relationships built with our fans. Our fans also bring the noise and excitement each game day! There is no game day atmosphere as good as Frost Arena and no better feeling then running out to 6,000+ fans for a Summit League Tournament game. My favorite part of it all is having the opportunity to celebrate a win by standing in the middle of Frost Arena and clapping to the school song with all of our fans. Thank you to everyone who has been there to support SDSU Women’s Basketball and all Jackrabbit Athletics!

Describe what your teammates mean to you.

My teammates mean more to me than I can even explain. Not only are they my teammates’ they are also my best friends and even more, my family. Together, we have been through everything you can think of. Spending multiple hours everyday for the past 4 years has created some pretty strong bonds. It is safe to say that I have a list of 20+ girls who I can always call on in a time of need. My favorite thing about my teammates is that although we are all so close and share the same love for basketball, we are all so different. Everyone brings something different and unique to the team and that is what makes our group so special. When I look back at my basketball career here at SDSU, it is all the memories and fun times spent with my teammates that I have enjoyed the most! I can’t wait to see what happens this year and to add to the many memories I already have!

How has Jackrabbit women’s basketball and SDSU impacted you?

Jackrabbit Women’s Basketball and my time spent at SDSU has impacted my life in so many ways. The things I have been able to do, see and accomplish is a dream come true. Through these experiences I have been challenged, giving me the opportunity to learn and grow as a person. These experiences have also prepared me for the future and life after basketball and college. Jackrabbit Women’s Basketball has taken me to more places than I can dream of. I have been able to see so much of the country, as well as some other parts of the world. Not everyone gets these opportunities in life, and I am blessed to have had these opportunities. Lastly, the relationships and people I have gotten to know through my years at SDSU have impacted my life. The help, love and support from these people will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I will be forever grateful for these relationships.

What are your goals/what are you looking forward to your senior year?

I think my biggest goal for my senior year is to live in the moment, enjoy the ride, not take anything for granted and build upon the Jackrabbit tradition in the Summit League and NCAA tournament. Basketball has always been a huge part of my life ever since I can remember. Although it will always be a part of my life, this will be the last year putting on an SDSU uniform.  I am looking forward to all the fun times spent with my family, teammates, SDSU, and the Brookings community.

What are your plans after graduation?

The thing I am most looking forward to after graduation is getting married and starting the next chapter in my life. My fiancé, Aaron King, proposed last Christmas and we will be getting married next June! After that, I am still undecided what will happen next. I have desires to go to graduate school to continue my education, possibly help out with another women’s basketball program and learn more about coaching at the collegiate level. I am also thinking about jumping right into the teaching profession and working with children. Regardless of what the future holds, I have lots to look forward to!!

Hannah Strop discusses being a Jackrabbit

What does being a Jackrabbit mean to you?

Being a Jackrabbit means holding myself to the highest possible standard in all aspects of my life. It also means being a good leader and role model to the people around me, especially my teammates. Being a Jackrabbit means representing my school and community in a positive, and influential way. It also means showing compassion and heart in everything I do. From the moment I decided to come to SDSU I considered myself a Jackrabbit, thus practicing all of the elements listed above. Even when I am done I will continue to be a Jackrabbit!

Talk about the SDSU fans and community of Brookings.

The community of Brookings and the SDSU fans were a big part in my decision to come to State.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that we have the most loyal fans…ever!  The support our program receives from our fans and the community makes playing the game so much fun. There’s nothing better than putting on that State uniform and getting ready to play the game I love in front of a bunch of fans who love to watch me play just as much.  

Describe what your teammates mean to you.

There’s no way I can even begin to describe what my teammates mean to me without getting at least a little teary-eyed.  They are my best friends; my sisters.  I love spending time with them, both on and off the court.  They are a huge reason as to why my experience at SDSU has been so amazing.  There’s never been a time when my teammates haven’t been there for me.  It’s more than comforting knowing that know matter what you go through, whether it be exciting, scary, happy, or sad, they’re with you through it all.  I trust my teammates and respect them just as much.  I will take away nothing but smiles and happy memories from the times I spent with my teammates throughout these past four years.

How has Jackrabbit women’s basketball and SDSU impacted you?

There is not doubt in my mind that SDSU was where I was supposed to end up.  Being a Jackrabbit has changed my life in so many ways, and I am gracious and so very thankful for everything that I have experienced at State.  All of my experiences have made me the person I am today. The people that I have met, the struggles I have endured, and the happiest of moments have changed me for the better.  I have done a lot of growing the past four years, and SDSU and Jackrabbit Women’s Basketball have had a tremendous impact on that growth.  I can honestly say that I will walk away from Jackrabbit Women’s Basketball and SDSU a better person than when I walked in. 

What are your goals/what are you looking forward to your senior year?

Everyone has told me how fast time goes, but I never realized it until now.  I’m sitting here thinking about my last year of basketball, and it’s scary! My goals this year include being the best leader that I can be on and off the court, as well as being a good role model for our underclassman.  I look forward to getting better with my team each day on the court and working towards being the best team we can be. I am going to cherish and enjoy every single second, because it will be done before I know it! 

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I plan to move back to Minnesota and find a teaching job near my hometown, New Prague.

Steph Paluch reflects on her ACL injury

It’s one of my most vivid memories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve jump stopped in my basketball career. It’s my go to move, my signature you could say, the one I’m most comfortable doing and yet it’s the one that let me down. A breakaway layup on a lazy pass that I knew would be the spark we needed to get ourselves out of a too close first half with a beatable team in the second round of the Summit League Tournament. I didn’t need the doctor to confirm the tear; I knew it before I hit the floor.

 The good thing was I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself; we had a game to finish as well as another the next day. I knew, at that moment, there was nothing else that would allow me to play. No, let’s try to walk it off or let’s tape it up nice and tight, literally nothing.  I had no choice but to look forward and focus on what would help me.

It turns out surgery helped, as well as an overabundance of rehab and support. I owe a lot of my sanity and speedy, successful recovery to David and Eric, our Athletic Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Coach respectively. I was able to do everything with the team on the first official practice in early October. This was a blessing but made for a difficult decision as to play or not play the upcoming season. I could physically do everything, but I still didn’t quite feel like I did the previous year.

I ran through every possible scenario as well as some not possible scenarios when deciding what to do. For two weeks I asked family, friends, teammates, coaches, God, people who had torn their ACL in sports, not in sports, outsiders, fans, literally anyone who would give me a piece of their mind what they would do. It took Hannah Strop saying, “Steph you’ve worked too hard to ride the bench as a senior, I think you should redshirt” to make my decision. She was right. I’d spent too much time bending and flexing to have a mediocre senior year.

Redshirting as a senior was such a unique experience. I did everything the team did minus play in an actual game. I was held accountable, got yelled at, traveled with, and ran every sprint the team did. It was all in a new light though. I felt like every game, practice, and meeting I was able to observe and process all that was being said and why. I tell people it was like having a fake senior year. What I’m most looking forward to for my real senior year is playing in an actual game. Those 35 games were such a rollercoaster of emotions for me. I’ve sat on the bench for my fair share of games, but this was different. I had so much more invested and I felt like I was physically helpless. I had to learn to lead in unique ways and impact the team without actually being on the court. It was definitely a lot of learning. Today, I’m back to 100%. The knee feels great and I finally feel in shape, though that’s debatable after a 5 and 32. I’ve also ditched the knee brace as we’ve never really gotten along.

I need to thank my family, friends, teammates, coaches, and Jackrabbit community for the prayers, thoughts, well wishes, and advice through this process. They have been there the entire way. I know it’s not the worst thing that will happen in my life; there will be far greater hardships and obstacles to endure. It is, however, just another example of how basketball and life are strongly correlated. I had a plan but I had to change it, I had to learn from it, but more importantly I had to grow from it.


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