Athlete Testimonials

Learn firsthand how Team USA athletes have grown and developed through our country’s college sports system.

Erin Kerkhoff Northern Iowa // Para track & field

Why did you choose your college,  and what did you like most about being a student-athlete there?

"I chose the University of Northern Iowa for many reasons: its proximity to my hometown, the size of the campus, and the caliber of its track and field program. My final decision to attend UNI however came after a campus visit with Coach Paulsen and Coach Wilson at the track. They valued my ability as an athlete and didn’t hesitate to bring me onto the team when I told them about my vision loss. In fact, they supported my attitude that I could overcome any obstacle and continue my success at the division I level.

Once I started college, I was thankful to be a student-athlete. I immediately had a new family of friends with similar interests. This was especially important because COVID-19 hit during my freshman year. Everything shut down and much of the year was lost, so having that group of friends from the team helped me stay driven and excited to return the next year."

How did competing collegiately help prepare you for competing on Team USA?

"Competing in track and field at the division I collegiate level as been great preparation for the Paralympic Games. The competition is fierce, and the pressure is intense. I have learned to rely on my routine before races to remain focused and to decrease my anxiety. The practices pushed me every day and taught me to develop a strict routine in order to have success."

How did (or will) going to college prepare you for life?

"I just completed my first full year of college since my freshman year was cut short due to COVID-19. I already know, though, that going to college as a student-athlete is preparing me for the future. Every day I have to stay disciplined and organized in order to attend classes, complete assignments and tests, and perform at practice and meets. The experience has reinforced the fact that my drive and work ethic will make it possible to accomplish any dream I pursue."