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MIAC Profile of Excellence: St Kate's Poss runs to all-around success

Among her many accomplishments, Poss is one of the Wildcats' career leaders in the steeplechase.
Among her many accomplishments, Poss is one of the Wildcats' career leaders in the steeplechase.
Photo courtesy of St. Catherine Sports Information

Only a small percentage of student-athletes compete in varsity sports throughout the academic year. An equally small portion of college students pull down a cumulative 4.0 grade point average (GPA), which becomes even more rare a find among students majoring in challenging fields such as Chemistry. The chances of finding someone meeting both of these criteria are slim, unless you conduct your search at St. Catherine University. There, you’d find Kristina Poss '14, who is one of the best distance runners in St. Kate's history, as well as a Chemistry major with a perfect 4.0 GPA with her sights set on attending medical school.

That's assuming you can track her down. Not only is Poss busy with training and running and her academic load, but she is also involved in a wide range of activities on campus and beyond.

“She's the total package as a student-athlete — good teammate, dedicated athlete, hard worker and doing all the right things outside of practice to be successful in all areas of her life,” said Wildcat Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Shannon Houlihan.

Poss’ personal best time ranks fifth all-time at St. Kate’s for cross country in the six kilometer distance. She ranks fourth in school history in the indoor 5,000-meter run and also in the outdoor 10,000-meter run. Her time in the 3,000-meter steeplechase is the third-fastest ever run by a Wildcat. Additionally, in 2012, she was part of the St. Catherine indoor Distance Medley Relay team that clocked the third-best time in school history. Her steeplechase time is especially noteworthy, as she’d never run the event or one similar prior to her collegiate career.

While she has not yet qualified for the NCAA national meet in any of her sports, she has that as one of her goals this year, whether it’s as part of a relay team or individually. 

"Kristina was a track captain last year as a junior and is a captain for both track and cross country this year,” said her coach. “She is a natural leader, and even before she had any sort of official title, she's been a team leader and a great role model for her teammates. Kristina is the epitome of a team player — always one of the first to volunteer and help out, whether for lunch with a prospective student, making posters, getting in some extra core work after practice, she's always thinking about the team and how she can help. There are a lot of athletes that are dedicated to the physical work and put in their mileage...but Kristina really understands doing all the extra little things that help a team be successful.”

Academically, she has earned a spot on the Dean’s List all six semesters, garnering Academic All-MIAC honors in cross country in 2011 and 2012. She is a recipient of the Sister Mary Thompson Scholarship, a prestigious merit scholarship for Chemistry students at St. Catherine.

Poss has been involved in two research projects with the Chemistry department at St. Kate’s. “I was involved in one project in organic chemistry from January 2011 to January 2012,” she said. “I am currently involved in another project, one with a biochemical focus, as part of the Senior Honors Program."

She has also been a Mayo Innovation Scholar. "That is a program sponsored by the Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Private College Council,” she explained. The program allows students to be involved in innovative research in various aspects of science and medicine, as well as in marketing, business development and other disciplines.

Additionally, Poss has been involved in research work at the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital. “In the summer of 2011, I was part of one project and was part of a second group during J-term in 2013,” she said. “Both were clinical research in the area of infectious disease.”

She also is a member of Iota Sigma Pi, a national honors society for women in chemistry, and is co-president of the St. Catherine University Medical Interest Group. “That’s a group for students here in various fields that have interest in careers in different aspects of the medical field,” she said. “It promotes career opportunities.”

Poss has been a major part of the now-annual campus event, The Little Red Dress. “It is a fundraising event we put on to benefit the American Heart Association,” she explained. “It includes a fashion show by St. Kate's Fashion Club, a silent auction and a musical concert featuring strings, woodwinds and acoustic guitar. There are also booths with information and education on heart health issues. I’ve emceed the event, which is a lot of fun, although it’s a lot of hard work, too.”

If that isn’t a full-enough plate, Poss volunteers at the Carondelet Center on campus, where she interacts with the residents, who are mostly retired nuns. She also finds time to volunteer as a Eucharistic minister at Our Lady of Victory chapel.

“Kristina spends a lot of time thinking about others - always ready with a kind word for her teammates, or asking us coaches how she can help, or in her involvement in community service projects on campus,” said Houlihan. “Every day that she's at practice she is there to give her best effort on the day, and never brings her outside distractions in to interfere with practice or races. Running takes that day-by-day dedication and her growth over her college career is a testament to the time she puts in. She's always the first one to say thank you and is just a joy to coach."

Poss is in the process of interviewing with various medical schools, primarily in the Midwest. She plans to enroll this coming fall, and is leaning towards practicing in the area of internal medicine. Minnesota, Creighton and Loyola of Chicago are among the schools she is exploring.

Her coach sees an outstanding career ahead for Poss. “After spending a little time around Kristina, it's easy to see that she'll be a fantastic doctor," Houlihan said. "Her calm manner and levelheadedness will make her great with patients and she's clearly got the drive to be successful in whatever field she wants. She's definitely meant to be in a career where she's helping others.”

Oct. 23, 2013 by Rich Mies, special to the MIAC

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