EagleHerald/Matt Lehmann
Marinette’s Katelyn Kitzinger readies her shot as an Ashwaubenon defender closes in during Marinette’s WIAA Division 2 Regional game in Ashwaubenon on Feb. 26. Kitzinger has been honored as a WIAA Statewide Scholar Athlete for her accomplishments both on the court and in the class room during her Marine career. Kitzinger is the first ever recipient of the award from Marinette.
EagleHerald/Matt Lehmann

Marinette’s Katelyn Kitzinger readies her shot as an Ashwaubenon defender closes in during Marinette’s WIAA Division 2 Regional game in Ashwaubenon on Feb. 26. Kitzinger has been honored as a WIAA Statewide Scholar Athlete for her accomplishments both on the court and in the class room during her Marine career. Kitzinger is the first ever recipient of the award from Marinette.

MARINETTE — Marinette senior Katelyn Kitzinger added another accolade to her rapidly growing list of achievements after being named a recipient of the WIAA Statewide Scholar Athlete Award, the first ever winner to come from Marinette High School.

“It’s a honor to receive this award,” Kitzinger said. “The last three years seemed to go by very fast, being named a scholar-athlete is a credit to all the coaches and teammates that I’ve had.”

The award is one of the most prestigious a student-athlete in Wisconsin can receive.

The WIAA recognizes only 32 individuals each year as scholar athletes, putting Kitzinger in rarefied air alongside fellow winners such as former Wisconsin Badgers and NFL All-Pro offensive tackle Joe Thomas and former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.

Recipients are nominated by their respective schools and chosen based on both academic and athletic achievement over the course of their prep careers. Four boys and four girls from each of the four WIAA divisions are then chosen as finalists. This year’s class has earned a total of 313 varsity letters while compiling an average grade point average of 3.94.

The award caps off an incredible three-year run for Kitzinger.

She wraps up her prep career as a three-time first team All North Eastern Conference performer in cross country, where she is also a 2019 sectional champion to go along with being a two-time state qualifier and a two-time team MVP.

In basketball, Kitzinger was a 2020 first team All-NEC pick while also etching her name into the record books with a 51-point outburst against Luxemburg-Casco on Feb. 13 that made her the holder of the highest single-game point total in Marine history. Kitzinger also notched her 1,000th career point against Freedom and is now the all-time leading scorer for Marinette girls basketball with 1,145 career points. She was also named a WBCA All-Star selection, but the game was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. As a cherry on top, Kitzinger was also recognized as team MVP three times.

A three-sport athlete, Kitzinger was also named to 2019 first team All-NEC squad in track and field, qualified for state competition three times and was named team MVP on two separate occasions. 

“You can’t say enough about Katelyn,” Marinette track and field coach Bryan Lenzner said. “She’s what you dream of when you think about a student-athlete. She’s a tireless worker that knows what she wants and does what she needs to do to achieve it. She’s a great leader that knows when to push someone and when to give them some positive feedback. She leads by example and isn’t afraid push people help them achieve greatness themselves.”

Marine basketball coach Zac Barker concurs with Lenzner’s opinion.

“She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever been around,” he said. “She takes academics as seriously as she does athletics and you can tell she really values education. On the court, there’s not many players than can make some of the plays that she makes. She’s our leader both on and off the court and I know a lot of kids, not just high schoolers, look up to her. She was always talking to fifth and sixth graders at our clinics and those girls know how hard she works and they see the success she’s obtained. They want to give more effort, just from watching Katelyn.”

While her athletic accomplishments may steal headlines, Kitzinger, who owns a 3.99 GPA, feels that her work in the classroom is what’s truly important.

“I’ve always said that academics come first,” she said. “Sometimes that means giving up some moments of fun on a bus ride home, but it beats staying up until midnight and then not getting any sleep. As an athlete as well, I know how important sleep and eating healthy can be when it comes to achieving your full potential. It really just comes down to time management and prioritizing what’s most important.”

Unfortunately for Kitzinger and the rest of the student body of MHS, the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shutdown have thrown a wrench into all of their spring plans.

On April 22, the WIAA cancelled all spring sports, effectively ending the prep athletic careers of athletes all over Wisconsin and denying Kizinger and her track and field teammates the chance to compete one final time.

Kitzinger, who will attend UW-LaCrosse in the fall and plans to compete in both basketball and track and field, prides herself on maintaining a positive attitude throughout any challenges, including one with as much uncertainty as the cornavirus shutdown.

“It’s a little unsettling, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen,” she said,” I know UW-LaCrosse was talking about starting up halfway through the year, so I’m curious and anxious to see how it’s all going to play out. Obviously it was sad to not be able to compete in track and field one more time, but you have to work with what you’ve got. All you can do is keeping training and stay focused.”

No matter what her future holds, Kitzinger hopes that her past will set the tone for a future generation of Marines.

“I hope I’ll be remembered as a hard worker and as someone who set a good example for the younger kids to do the same,” she said. “I had a lot of good role models when I was coming up who taught me a lot and showed me the right way to do things, and I think it’s important that I do the same.”

Kitzinger and her fellow recipients will be honored with a video posted on the WIAA’s website on May 15., which will also be broadcast statewide on FS Wisconsin at several dates to be announced.