Kaitlin Krouse hasn’t had to change mascots, going from the blue and white of the Chewelah Cougars to the crimson and gray of the Washington State University Cougars. But she’s certainly gone places as a Division I athlete after getting interested in Track and Field her freshman year.
The three sport athlete from Chewelah has always found sports a fun way to enjoy being around friends or family. But as any standout athlete usually does, she took things very seriously.
“I’ve been doing sports for as long as I can remember,” Krouse said. “I started off with tee-ball and soccer in kindergarten and have tried almost every sport since. Being competitive is fun. To be competitive you need to take your sport somewhat serious. I can’t remember not taking sports seriously. I have always loved pushing myself to be better than I was the day before.”
The 5’10” WSU thrower just completed her freshman year in Pullman after a storied career for the Chewelah Cougars. She said, however, that until middle school she didn’t even know that throwing existed in track.
“I tried it and I really enjoyed it,” Krouse said. “I wasn’t great at it, there were a lot of people better than I was, I liked it because all the throwers seemed like one big family. They always seemed to have a good time and enjoy being around each other, much like when I was home with my family.”
The daughter of Dan and Sheila Krouse, Kaitlin said her parents helped her more than anyone can imagine with whatever sport she was interested in.
“Each of my parents kind of had their ‘specialty,’” Krouse said. “With my mom, we did a lot of basketball and with my dad it was baseball and softball.”
While in high school, Kaitlin was a four-year varsity letter winner from 2012-15 in volleyball as an outside hitter as well as a four-year varsity player in basketball. She also did track and field for four years, making the switch from softball to track her freshman year. Kaitlin said that her experience growing up in Chewelah was a good one since it gave her so many opportunities.
“In our small community, we are able to compete in every sport which is a great opportunity to improve our athleticism,” Krouse said. “But with that being said, there are definitely unique struggles that you must overcome being an athlete in a small town.”
One of those challenges is being noticed in the northeast corner of Washington State by colleges. When Kaitlin made the switch to the track and field team from softball — liking the atmosphere of her throwing teammates. She thought that her window for a college career was over since she was making the switch late after years of youth softball.
“I was just hoping that I was one of the lucky ones to be able to do a college sport at the same time,” Krouse said. “After switching from softball I thought that dream was pretty much over.”
Enter Chewelah throwing coach Greg Rainer who was a volunteer coach that came to help Kaitlin’s sophomore year.
“He was the first coach that believed I could do it,” Krouse said. “Greg was a huge help when it came to track. He was a volunteer coach that was there for every practice and meet. He pushed me to do my best in each of my events.”
One day, Rainer told Kaitlin,“You know, you could probably throw somewhere if you really wanted to.”
And the dream started again. This time, the dream of throwing at the college level.
“It became apparent that colleges were interested in the spring of my junior year when I received some letters from multiple schools from different states,” Krouse said.
During Krouse’s sophomore year, she placed third in the discus at state and eighth in the shot put. Her junior year saw her throw a PR of 39-4 in the shot put and she placed sixth at state and won the discus state championship. In her senior year, she was the state meet runner-up with a PR throw of 145-2 in the discus and placed third in the shot put. Krouse won NEA League championships in the discus event in her sophomore, junior and senior year.
Despite all these accolades, she’s the first to say that she enjoyed her teammates and that was the real fun of the sport.
“The family feel with the throwers was unlike any other sport I had ever experienced in Chewelah,” Krouse said. “Track is unique in the way that, yes, it is a team sport but it is also an individual sport. You get the best of both worlds where you get to enjoy being around your teammates but also get to compete individually.”
Krouse added that that the bond between teammates grows strong when you’re pushed hard in practice.
“There is no other bond that can be created from nearly dying at practice next to someone you don’t know very well, you become very close, really quick,” she said.
Being successful helped Krouse as a person, she added, saying that while winning isn’t everything, being successful after putting in so much time and effort is nice.
Being recruited wasn’t a bad reward either. As a high school athlete you get five official visits where schools pay for the trip. College coaches began talking with Krouse her junior year, asking questions to see how she would fit into their program. GPA really did matter in this realm and Krouse was a three-sport Academic All-League pick during her career in Chewelah.
“Being a good student is just as, or even more, important than your athletic ability,” Krouse said. “There is a reason that you’re a student-athlete and not an athlete-student. Athletics can only take you so far. Sooner or later you’re going to have to get a job and what you have learned as a student is going to be how you will do that.”
Krouse narrowed her choices for schools down to twelve and then down to two: WSU and EWU. She decided to go with WSU since they provided extra academic support and help for their athletes in finding careers after college.
In her freshman year, Krouse has placed in the top five of several events throughout the indoor and outdoor season, including a first place finish with the discus at the WAR IX invite in Spokane.
“It has been an amazing opportunity! I would never change it for anything,” Krouse said. “I am facing competition not only with my other teammates but also with my competitors within the Pac-12. It helps me strive to make myself better and want to compete. There is a challenge at every meet to become better than I was the meet before. It’s kinda nice to know that I need to improve so much.”
Being a student athlete can be chaotic at times for Krouse and being organized is important. With a handy athletic department planner, she’s constantly using it since last-minute things just aren’t possible. She starts classes at 8 a.m., throwing practice sometimes in the morning, then more class and weightlifting in the afternoon.
After that, it’s study time and usually some tutoring before she goes to bed at 10 p.m.
Once her freshmen year at WSU was over, Krouse came back to Chewelah to help the Cougar athletes preparing for the state meet.
“I really enjoyed helping the throwers,” she said. “I haven’t been able to do that before so it was a great experience.”
Krouse was able to see her brother Conner place fourth in the state discus and sixth in the shotput.
“Watching Conner be so successful at the state meet was very exciting,” Krouse said. “I have never watched someone compete without being a competitor myself.”
With three more years at WSU, there will be plenty more chances for her to compete. Thanks to her hard work she’s been able to make it to the next level after four years in Chewelah.
By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff