Monday, 27 March 2023

International Volleyball

WKU volleyball player Isenbarger a high flyer in NCAA track and field

WKU volleyball player Isenbarger a high flyer in NCAA track and field

One is her passion. One is her talent.

On the volleyball court and at the high jump bar, Katie Isenbarger has lived the best of both worlds at Western Kentucky. And she has been pretty darn good in both.

Saturday, the 6-foot Isenbarger will compete for the second time in the NCAA track and field indoor championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and seek her second All-American honor in the high jump. Last spring, she went into the event seeded 15th and finished fifth. (The top eight earn All-American status.)

“I was very surprised and very pleased,” Isenbarger said about last year’s performance. “I was just happy to be there, to be honest. Being one of the top 16 jumpers in the nation, I was just so excited to just be among all those girls.”

On her way to the 2023 indoor championships, the product of Zionsville, Indiana, set the WKU record at 1.84 meters (roughly 6 feet, ¼ inch) at Bellarmine and won the Conference USA title (1.80). She now holds the top five indoor high jumps in WKU women’s history. She also holds the top four outdoor marks, with the best being 5-11 ½, including breaking a 40-year-old record in the event as a freshman.

In the fall, she wrapped up her outstanding volleyball career — the Hilltoppers won 132 matches and made four NCAA Tournament appearances in her five seasons — by earning her third second-team All-CUSA honor.

Katie Isenbarger /Wyatt Richardson, WKU Athletics

She averaged 1.61 kills per set (hitting .363) from her middle position and led the team and ranked second in the conference in blocks (1.23), numbers that are even more impressive considering she was playing alongside All-American middle and two-time C-USA player of the year Lauren Matthews.

Her two-sport stardom is reminiscent of Michigan’s Claire Kieffer-Wright, who, in 2016-17, led the Wolverines volleyball team in blocks and later won the Big Ten high jump title.

“She became a terrific blocker for a lot of the same physical characteristics that made her a really good high jumper,” WKU coach Travis Hudson said. “She’s a really ‘springy’ kid. She’s great laterally. She never gives up on a play. She’s just flying around.”

Hilltoppers track and field director Brent Chumbley marvels at the way Isenbarger has excelled in two Division I sports.

“We’ve had some dual-sport athletes in my coaching career, but, honestly, none that have been at the level Katie is,” said Chumbley, who has been coaching track and field for nearly…

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