RCW: Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Kristi Kloster-Burritt
For many Kansas alumni, the pride and tradition KU upholds is something that will always stay with them. This is no different for former women’s cross country and track star, Kristi Kloster-Burritt.
“The longer I was a student-athlete at KU the stronger my identity as a Jayhawk became. I took pride in representing our great school and upholding KU’s strong running tradition,” said Kloster-Burritt. “Being part of the team was incredibly rewarding. That loyalty helped get through the early mornings, the injuries and the hard times. The team being like family made the good times even more meaningful.”
Kloster-Burritt ran cross country and track at Kansas but was a track standout. Kloster-Burritt’s career at Kansas was highlighted by winning the 1996 NCAA Indoor National Championship (800-meters), a two-time Indoor All-American (1996, 1994), 1996 Big Eight Conference Indoor Champion (800-meters, distance medley relay), 1994 Big Eight Conference Indoor Champion (800-meters) and 1994 Jayhawk of the Year. Kloster-Burritt still holds the Kansas 800-meter indoor record with her time of 2:04.91.
Kloster-Burrit’s road to success was an uphill battle through and through. Kloster-Burritt suffers from compartment syndrome, a painful condition caused by pressure buildup from swelling of tissues.
“Running with compartment syndrome was a lot like those dreams where you are trying as hard as you can to run but your legs don’t work. They would burn, feel like they would explode and then go numb and I would lose strength,” said Kloster-Burritt.
Due to compartment syndrome, Kloster-Burritt and her coaches, Gary Schwartz, Bob Timmons and Steve Guymon, had to think of new ways for her to train that would not cause her more pain than she was already dealing with. The week before Kloster-Burritt won the national title, she had only run a total of four miles.
“I was determined to win a national title,” said Kloster-Burritt. “I wanted it more than anyone that year. With the help of coach Bob Timmons, Steve Guymon and an excellent team of trainers, I was able to cobble together a training program to prepare me to compete at Nationals.
“Coach Timmons would meet me early in the morning in the pool for a workout. I would go to the training room before practice and then ride an aerodyne bike during practice. At night, I would meet up with Coach Timmons back in the pool again.”
Kloster-Burritt’s drive to succeed helped her accomplish her goal of winning the national title that year.
During her time at Kansas, Kloster-Burritt met her husband Jason Burritt, who is a former Kansas football player. He was Kloster-Burritt’s biggest supporter throughout her career.
“As an athlete himself, he could relate to my lifestyle and goals and dreams,” said Kloster-Burritt. His support was a big part of all of my success in life. He is so positive and so inspiring.”
The pair now have three children together and although their children’s sporting events take precedent, they are still big Jayhawk fans. Kloster-Burritt works for Eli Lilly as a diabetes care representative, serves at the track and field coordinator at her children’s school and is a volunteer track coach for Catholic Youth Organization
“My experience as a student-athlete at KU prepared me to be able to set goals and work diligently and very hard to achieve those goals,” said Kloster-Burritt. “Perseverance and grit are definitely traits that were deeply ingrained in me at KU. Be kind, work hard, support your team and never give up! Works well in any area of life.”
Kloster-Burritt learned a lot through her time as a Jayhawk but had a special bond with coach Bob Timmons.
“The kindness and selflessness Coach Bob Timmons showed me was life changing,” said Kloster-Burrit. “He was retired and had heard of my struggles and my goals. He asked if he could coach me in the pool. He would meet me at 5 a.m. every morning! Freezing cold, rain, snow, (it) didn’t matter – he was always there with his hat on and a smile. I try to pay the gift of his selflessness and kindness back when I can because I know firsthand what a difference it can make in someone’s life.”
Kloster-Burritt was recently inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame and will be inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on October 1 in Wichita, Kansas. Kloster-Burritt’s story is that of grit, strength and determination. She hopes that people will remember her most for being a hard worker and supportive teammate.
“Jayhawks are tough and never give up. Being part of that culture and having that support made so much possible,” said Kloster-Burritt.
Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk