Catch Up With Former Jayhawk Athletes In "Where Are They Now?"

Dec. 18, 2007

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Since the <?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>University of Kansas conducted its first classes on September 12, 1866, it has been a place of academic excellence and innovation. A degree from KU comes with prestige, with more than 40 of the 100 fields of study ranking nationally. The opportunities are endless for any student-athlete who steps foot on campus. They could not only potentially make history on their respected playing field, and also in the classroom.

The sky is the limit at KU, the place where the man who invented basketball became our first coach. The dwarfed-planet Pluto, vitamins A and D, and helium were discovered inside the walls of this historic campus. There are 12 Pulitzer Prize winners, 25 Rhodes scholars, five MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award winners, and one Nobel Prize laureate who molded or are molding the foundation of their achievements at KU.

“Unparalleled Excellence” is the strategic mission of Kansas Athletics. Have you ever wondered where your favorite Jayhawk of the past is now? As KU continues to excel in a wide range of sports nationally we cannot forget those who shaped the groundwork, who took “Unparalleled Excellence” into their lives today. Not only those former athletes who broke records and etched their names into KU history books, but those who now make history everyday with the degree they earned in the classroom as a former KU student.

In the weeks to come we will catch up with former Jayhawk athletes in “Where Are They Now?!”

Gwen Haley, a Carmel, Ind., swimmer, came to the University of Kansas to make her splash in the fall of 1999. She had already made her mark in high school as an All American and Junior National Champion in the 200 fly, 400 individual medley and 200 individual medley. She picked up right where she left off, hitting the pool as a freshman Jayhawk setting the third-fastest times in school history in the 200 and 400 IM. In each year during her campaign, she held at least three of KU’s fastest season times. As a sophomore Haley was a member of the winning 800 medley relay team at the Big 12 Relays. In that same season, she competed at the 2000 Olympic Trials. Out of all her many athletic accolades the one Haley is most proud of is still holding the Robinson Pool record in the 400 IM.

Haley was well respected by coaches and teammates alike. Head Coach Clark Campbell had this to say about her, “Gwen was one of the most focused athletes I ever worked with, in both academics and athletics. I wish I had more than one year to work with her.” He also commented on the role she had on the team, “Gwen played such an important part on the team in that she led by example. Her achievements inspired us all, athletes and staff. Now it is a blast to watch her grow in her area of specialty. For us, it is no surprise how much Gwen has accomplished. There is more to come.”

In the classroom, Haley took “Unparalleled Excellence” to heart. A unanimous vote on the Academic All-Big 12 First Team her sophomore through senior years was due to her 3.93 cumulative GPA. Upon graduating in four years with a degree in human biology she was named the Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2003, awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study in Australia and a recipient of the Dr. Prentice Gautt Big 12 Conference Postgraduate Scholarship Program. After graduating with honors, Haley was accepted as a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wyoming, where she now resides.

“I’m getting my Ph.D.; it’s a master’s bypass program.” Haley said. “The qualifications are more difficult. They looked at my undergraduate education and decided I was a great person for this degree because I had been very successful thus far.”

Haley takes one class a semester and does the rest of her work researching. It should come as no surprise that Haley is leaving her mark at the University of Wyoming. She has already, at the age of 26, had two of her research papers published in the American Journal of Physiology, has been awarded the Outstanding Neuroscience Student of the Year and has won several oral presentation awards.

Haley will finish her Ph.D. work this spring. Starting this summer she will travel west to begin her career as a human/biomedical researcher at the OregonHealthScienceUniversity. She wants to focus her research on Alzheimer’s disease and sleep cycles.

She credits much of her success from the lessons she learned as a student-athlete. “My least favorite thing about being an athlete turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me, which was learning how to manage my time,” she said. “The discipline that is required to succeed as a student-athlete is what I use today as a graduate student and what I will carry over into my career.”

Sure, Haley’s records as a KU swimmer are something to boast about; however, her work in human and biomedical research will save lives.

Most memorable moment as a Jayhawk:

“My fondest memory was the companionship between my teammates and myself. For example, watching the men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA championship game in 2003 with my teammates. Spending time with them and getting to experience that identity of being a Jayhawk.”

Do you continue to support KU Athletics?

“My sister, Carrah Haley, is a sophomore KU swimmer. I try to get out there at least once a year to watch a swim meet. It is really neat from my perspective because I only had the chance to swim under Clark Campbell for one year. I have so much respect for him as a coach and a person. Now to be able to see Carrah swim under him for four years is exciting because of not only what she has done, but what she will do.”

Gwen Haley’s advice to current Jayhawks:

“Choose a career that you love, because having a job and making it through the day is not enough. After a few years you will understand that you have to find something that lights a spark in you. As an athlete at a Division I university, you obviously have a drive, desire and love for your sport. Find a job where you can experience that same love.”