Bloomington, Ind. - Inspiration and leadership are two words synonymous with senior Karie Schlukebir. For those two sterling attributes, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) honored her and Houston's Sarah Flood with the Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award on Monday.
"In my 30 years of college coaching, Karie Schlukebir is the most resilient and inspirational athlete I have ever met," Indiana women's tennis coach Lin Loring said. "Despite battling cancer since January of her freshman year, she continues to be our team's heart and soul."
The award is presented to an individual who displays inspiring commitment and dedication to her team, which has enhanced her team's performance and exemplified the spirit of college tennis. The award is in honor of former Penn head coach Cissie Leary, who past away in 1996 of sclerderma. Leary spent 20-years at Penn as she worked to expand the Quakers program to the national level. She was beloved by her fellow coaches who named the award after her and began giving it out in 1997.
The story of Schlukebir has long been written about, but perhaps the most inspiring thing is the way she goes about her life. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native has battled cancer since her freshman season at Indiana. After being cancer free for a year, the ailment resurfaced in January of this season. Only five days after having a tumor removed, she returned to the lineup and won the deciding match in the Hoosiers' 4-3 victory over Marquette.
With Indiana clinging to a 3-2 lead, Schlukebir stepped up in a huge way. Having to serve underhand because of soreness caused by her surgery, Schlukebir won a three-set match to give Indiana the victory. During the 2003 season, Schlukebir went 15-9 in singles and 18-10 overall in doubles. She sits eighth on Indiana's career doubles wins list with 88 victories.
Maybe more impressive than her records, Schlukebir graduated from the Kelley School of Business in five years. Five years may not sound that impressive, but considering the fact that she missed two full semesters with cancer treatments and was doing treatments in half of her other semester, it is quite a feat.
Schlukebir's exploits off the court and beyond the classroom exemplify her character even more. She represents the women's tennis program on the athletic department's Student-Athlete Advisory Council as part of the NCAA Champs/Life Skills program. She also organizes the team to participate in Hoosiers Outrun Cancer every year. Schlukebir also participates in Read Across America at local elementary schools.
Along with Schlukebir, Houston's Flood, a Reading, England native, was honored with the Sportsmanship award. She had a near fatal car accident in 2001 and rejoined the Cougars the following season.
Schlukebir was also honored with the Aline Robinson Mental Attitude Award in 2000-01 as well as the Wilma Rudolph Student Athlete Achievement Award from the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics in 2001-02. She is also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection as well as a two-time Alpha Beta academic honors.