TriBUne Archives of Champions
Through: Katie Shiffer
Champions’ TriBUne is a special Baylor Athletics feature that gives you the student-athlete’s perspective and gives them the opportunity to tell their own story. Katie Shiffer, an aspiring senior from Fairfax, Virginia, has competed in back-to-back NCATA National Championships with Baylor Acrobatics & Tumbling. With a background in gymnastics and competition cheering, she also won a national individual competition title as a base in the inversion pyramid with a score of 9.90. Katie, who specializes in public health, is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection and has been included in the NCATA Academic Honor Roll for each of the past two seasons. After college, she plans a career in healthcare administration:
“What is my story?” That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since I first had the opportunity to write a Champions’ TriBUne. However, I don’t feel like I have a single story. From my journey of being recruited and learning about the sport, through an uncertain year of college that was ultimately put on hold due to a global pandemic, to winning two back-to-back national championships with the most amazing teams and staff. This was a program I could only dream of being a part of and that’s how it started, a dream.
I got to know the sport in middle school and was immediately hooked. I was at a point in my life where I had just quit competitive gymnastics – the only thing I had known in my entire life – and had no idea what the future held for me. I had always dreamed of competing at a high level and the sport of acrobatics & tumbling gave me and so many other young women the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level and grow as an athlete and as a person.
THE SPORT OF ACROBATIC & TUMBLING
The sport was created by women for women and is the only sport aside from football to have been created at the collegiate level. Additionally, Acrobatics & Tumbling has given so many women and ex-athletes in the sport the opportunity to coach and develop the sport. These are some of the reasons why A&T is so special. Our trainer always tells us that we are part of history and that we are pioneers. I often forget and overlook this, but it is so true. Little girls will now grow up with the sport and aspire to do it in college one day. All of us who are involved in sport help to keep the sport growing and inspire young girls to be better and maximize their potential.
THE BEGINNING OF MY FUTURE
One day in the fall of my junior year of high school, I realized that the sport I had been following on social media (and was impressed by) was something I could actually compete in. I took the leap of faith and filled out a recruitment questionnaire on the Baylor Acrobatics & Tumbling website – not trusting that I would get anything back (from the best program in the country, may I add). Lo and behold, I got an email back soon after and began the recruitment process that got me to where I am today: competing at the college level and being a part of something so much bigger than myself.
However, competing was not something I thought I would do when I first arrived at Baylor for my freshman year. I came into the fall with a pre-existing injury from high school that I had been struggling with for a year and a half from being constantly misdiagnosed. During those early months as a collegiate athlete, I was finally (correctly) diagnosed with stress compartment syndrome in my left leg and scheduled for surgery. My hope of competing this year was dashed.
However, with the help of a great athletic training team, encouraging coaches and teammates, and lots of perseverance, I have rehabilitated and returned to pre-surgery form. Then, one day in training, my trainers decided to try me as a backspot — a position I’d had previous experience with, but not to the extent of throwing and catching a human in a throw that went straight over my head turned and turned. Despite this, my coaches had faith in me, and in return I had faith in myself. As a backspot at Tosses, I gained a newfound love for the position and the sport, and secured a spot on the mat for the 2020 season. I managed to attend all but one meeting in my freshman year before it was canceled due to the pandemic.
I recently spoke to my father about my freshman year and my surgery. My father had flown from Virginia to Waco to be there for my surgery and a few days after the surgery. He came in the evening when I had just come out of the study room. He said to me, “The second I saw you come out of the building, I knew you were where you were supposed to be. That really hit me. While I had no idea what the future held and if I would ever get the chance to compete, I was so excited that I had made it to where I am now, to be a part of the program and school that I had worked so hard to achieve and to have the opportunity to work with the best of the best. This is also a testament to where Baylor is located. Even though I was down and had countless worries in my life, being surrounded by genuine people and being in a sports department that will stop at nothing to support you, I was still fortunate to be where I was.
ENTHUSIASM TO IMPROVE
In my sophomore and junior years, I strived to contribute more to the team than backspotting and a standing tumbling pass. It really all changed as I headed into my junior year and into the 2021-2022 season. I can’t really describe it, but I’ve just become a new athlete. I’ve maintained weights and falls consistently throughout the summer which has helped my improvement, but there has also been a major shift in my mentality. I was determined and hungry. I also just loved what I was doing. Part of me shifted my perspective from complacency and insecurity of myself to recognizing what my body is capable of and appreciating what my body can do. That’s when I started having more fun and enjoyment with my skills, which made me want to keep trying to get the next skill or tumbling pass. At the end of my junior season, I completed my first solo pass and was part of a 10-match group pass and competed in the trio pass at the NCATA Individual Event Finals. In addition, I was able to participate in two national championship seasons. The ending I could only ever dream of. At the end of my junior year, at the year-end banquet, I was presented with the Most Improved Award. That meant so much to me. This award was a validation that my hard work and growth was being recognized.
I never thought that completing this recruitment questionnaire and attending a summer camp in Baylor would lead me to where I am today. I wasn’t sure I would ever compete to compete in every event (mandatory, acro, pyramid, toss, tumbling, team event). I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this team, program and athletic department. I’ve met so many wonderful and influential people who have influenced me so much as an athlete and as a person.
READY FOR A SPECIAL YEAR
Looking back over the past three years as a college athlete gives me so much joy and pride for what I’ve been through, what I’ve overcome and who I’ve become. I’ve mastered more skills on and off the mat than I ever dreamed possible and created memories that will last a lifetime. My time at Baylor was unforgettable and I plan to make the most of my final year here at the place that made me who I am today.
TriBUne features of previous champions:
Men’s tennis – Sven Lah (May 5, 2022)
Baseball – Nolan Rodriguez (April 28, 2022)
Equestrian – Caroline Fuller (April 14, 2022)
Men’s tennis – Matias Soto (March 17, 2022)
Soccer – Ally Henderson-Ashkinos (March 3, 2022)
Volleyball – Callie Williams (November 4, 2021)
Soccer – Jennifer Wandt (10/14/2021)
Softball – Lou Gilbert (Aug. 5, 2021)
Women’s Athletics – Aaliyah Miller (May 27, 2021)
Equestrian – Madaline Callaway (May 20, 2021)
Acrobatics & Tumbling – DayAndrea Thompson (May 13, 2021)
Men’s tennis – Constantin Frantzen (May 6, 2021)
Softball – Sidney Holman-Mansell (April 8, 2021)
Women’s Golf – Gurleen Kaur (March 25, 2021)
Baseball – Andy Thomas (March 4, 2021)
Men’s Tennis – Charlie Broom (February 11, 2021)
Volleyball – Marieke van der Mark (03.12.2020)
Soccer – Raleigh Texada (November 12, 2020)
Men’s Cross Country – Ryan Hodge (October 29, 2020)
Women’s cross-country skiing – Sarah Antrich (15.10.2020)
Volleyball – Hannah Sedwick (1.10.2020)
Soccer – Maddie Algya (September 10, 2020)
Men’s Basketball – Freddie Gillespie (March 26, 2020)
Women’s Athletics – Tuesdi Tidwell (March 20, 2020)
Women’s Basketball – Moon Ursin (March 5, 2020)
Men’s Athletics – Cole Hardan (February 27, 2020)
Volleyball – Shelly Stafford (January 30, 2020)
Men’s Golf – Mike McGraw (January 3, 2020)
Volleyball – Yossiana Pressley (December 5, 2019)
Baseball – Nick Loftin (November 21, 2019)
Men’s Cross Country – Ryan Day (1 Nov 2019)
Women’s Cross-Country – Lindsay Walton (October 15, 2019)
Men’s Basketball – Okeke Band (Oct 1, 2019)
Volleyball – Gia Milana (September 17, 2019)
Soccer – Raegan Padgett (September 5, 2019)
Soccer – Sam Tecklenburg (29 August 2019)
Men’s Golf – Cooper Dossey (July 11, 2019)
Baseball – Richard Cunningham (June 27, 2019)
Men’s Tennis – Jimmy Bendeck (June 14, 2019)
Baseball – Shea Langeliers (May 30, 2019)
Women’s Athletics – Kiana Horton (May 22, 2019)
Men’s Golf – Garrett May (9 May 2019)
Women’s Golf – Maria Vesga (May 2, 2019)
Acrobatics & Tumbling – Camryn Bryant (April 25, 2019)
Equestrian – Shannon Hogue (April 16, 2019)
Women’s Tennis – Angelina Shakhraichuk (April 9, 2019)
Women’s Basketball – Lauren Cox (March 22, 2019)
Men’s Athletics – Wil London (7 March 2019)
Men’s Basketball – Jake Lindsey (March 4, 2019)
Softball – Nicky Dawson (February 21, 2019)
Baseball – Josh Bissonette (February 14, 2019)
Men’s Tennis – Will Little (January 31, 2019)
Men’s Basketball – King McClure (January 17, 2019)
Women’s Basketball – Chloe Jackson (January 3, 2019)
Soccer – Blake Blackmar (December 13, 2018)
Volleyball – Braya Hunt (November 29, 2018)
Soccer – Jackie Crowther (November 16, 2018)
Women’s Cross-Country – Alison Andrews-Paul (Nov. 8, 2018)
Soccer – Ira Lewis (November 6, 2018)