Loras College Track and Field student running

Finding Support (and Success) Every Step of the Way

Robert Waterbury

Upon graduating high school in West Burlington, Iowa, Alyssa Pfadenhauer (’23) took her time selecting a college. After a successful track & field career ended with a torn quadricep muscle, she was uncertain about how successful she could come back as a competitive runner and where that might be.

Enter Matt Jones (’05), women’s track & field head coach.

“Coach Jones said he believed in me and felt I could come back stronger, but it would happen on my schedule,” she said. “He made it clear that I could take the time I needed before I was ready to run. I didn’t feel the pressure that I had to come in and compete immediately in my first year. He made me feel comfortable knowing that I was coming to a place that acknowledged my needs over needing me to come in and fill a spot.”

With that piece of mind knowing she wouldn’t be rushed back too quickly, Pfadenhauer made a campus visit that finalized her decision.

“When I was on campus, I felt happy and safe. I knew this was the place I wanted to be for the next four years. Four years later, it still feels right,” she smiled.

In those four years, Pfadenhauer has been a member of three NCAA Division III Women’s Track and Field National Outdoor team championships and one indoor team title. She trusted in her teammates and coaches and has far exceeded her own expectations.

Pfadenhauer’s individual accolades on the track are numerous. In addition to the four team titles, she has four individual and relay national titles to go with six American Rivers Conference titles. She has also earned ten All-American honors and multiple All-Academic nods. She is also the school record holder in the 400m in both indoor and outdoor competitions.

Upon hearing the list of her accomplishments, Pfadenhauer’s reaction is a mix of humbleness and ambition.

“When I hear that all together, it reminds me that I have accomplished so much, but I also feel like there is so much more for me to achieve. It sounds funny, but it is like I forget that I did all of that. I still get nervous before events because, even though I have won them before, that was in the past. I probably don’t give myself enough credit for everything so far, but I’m not done yet,” she said.

Pfadenhauer’s success is not limited to the track. A double major in social work and psychology with a minor in coaching, she has thrived in the experiential learning opportunities provided to her. She is grateful for the multitude of chances to get out into the Dubuque community and learn first-hand.

“We get to do a lot of in-person events and experiences in the community and get involved,” she explained. “We have gone to the capitol, held regular conversations with individuals at a nursing home and there are more happening all the time. They are all amazing experiences that I wouldn’t get outside of Loras’ social work program.”

One of the most beneficial experiences has been her internship at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dubuque. When she is there, she is able to interact with local kids while helping them through problems and serving as a role model. Something about those interactions she feels brings out the best in her.

“Some of my friends think I am not very patient, but I have all the patience in the world for kids. There are times when one of the kids is acting out or arguing and I enjoy being able to sit down with them and talk about what they are feeling. We can sit there and have a conversation while coloring and work through whatever is throwing them off. I am helping them but is also a big help to me. If I am having a hard day, I can’t take that with me when I see these kids. It has changed my perspective in how to interact with people,” she said.

That support she provides for the kids reflects the support she has felt throughout her time at Loras. Arriving on campus shy and uncertain of her place, she was quickly drawn out of her shell and found friends and activities to make her feel at home.

“When I first came to Loras, they were very welcoming and made me feel like I belonged here. Everything felt so genuine. Every step of the way, I have had someone to reach out to—whether it is a professor, staff member, or coach—if I need it and know they are going to listen and care about what you are saying,” she said.

Pfadenhauer is looking to continue running after her Loras career is over. “I want to see where my times can take me. I want to see how I do at the Olympic trials and if I can qualify. If I can make a career as a runner, I want to give it a try.”

In addition to that, she knows she wants to work with kids.

“I don’t know quite how yet, but I want to be working and supporting kids,” she said. There are so many who are going through difficult things and it doesn’t seem like there is anyone talking to them. I would like to be the one to give them attention have those conversations to help them where I can.”

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