Heading Home for the Holidays

Dec. 23, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s not quite planes, trains and automobiles for members of the University of Iowa women’s basketball team this holiday season, but thousands of miles will be traveled as the student-athletes head home to spend time with family and friends.

After practice in Iowa City on Friday morning, the team headed to airports or hopped in cars to make the trek back to Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, or other cities in Iowa. Some student-athletes have a relatively easy trip, while some have to log a few miles before digging in to Christmas cookies.

Sophomores Kathy Thomas and Kathryn Reynolds have the longest trips back home, separated by only two miles. Its 477 miles (roughly seven hours) from Iowa City to Thomas’ hometown of Flint, Mich., while its 475 miles (also approximately seven hours) to Reynolds’ home in Cincinnati. Both caught Friday afternoon flights back home.

“I haven’t been home since August, so it’s been quite a while for me,” Reynolds said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back and see all my family and friends.”

“Having that family atmosphere at Iowa has helped me so much this year. If I’m having a bad day, I know I can depend on teammates who are just as supportive as my family.”
Freshman Kali Peschel

“I’m so excited to see my family and all of my nephews,” Thomas said. “Just to have a few days back home will be great.”

Reynolds’ brother, Jonathan, is also a college athlete and plays baseball at Ohio University. Kathryn is currently sidelined after an ACL injury suffered in April, and Jonathan is working his way back from a knee injury as well.

“We are both rehabbing our knees right now,” Reynolds said. “We will be back home doing our leg workouts together.”

Reynolds’ father, Terry, also has a busy travel schedule throughout the year as the senior director of professional and global scouting for the Cincinnati Reds. Reynolds is thankful that the holiday season allows her entire family to be in the same place at the same time.

“Our family has some pretty crazy schedules,” Reynolds said. “Any time the four of us can hang out together, it’s pretty awesome.”

People look forward to traditions during Christmas, whether it’s a family gathering or a certain meal on Christmas morning. One of Thomas’ holiday traditions revolves around basketball.

Thomas graduated from Flint Hamady High School, known as a women’s basketball powerhouse across the country. Multiple Flint Hamady alumni are currently playing Division I basketball and Thomas will be able to see at least two of her former teammates during the season this year (Michigan State’s Jasmine Thomas and Central Michigan’s Brandie Baker). Thomas will see those two, along with many other high school teammates, on Christmas Day.

“My high school coach arranges a Christmas brunch for all of us that come back into town,” Thomas said. “It has become a tradition in my hometown, and it’s always fun to see your teammates and talk about your college experiences.”

Freshman Kali Peschel has 400-plus miles to travel, making the 407 mile trip (six hours) back north to Sauk Centre, Minn. Peschel, along with classmate Kayla Timmerman and sophomore Bethany Doolittle, all hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes and are car-pooling back to the Twin Cities. Peschel’s mother is then picking her up and driving the remaining 100 miles back to Sauk Centre.

“Being away from home has made me realize that I can’t take time with my family for granted,” Peschel said. “I’m just looking forward to spending as much time with them as I can.”

The car-pool back to Minnesota is just one of the many examples that Peschel points to as evidence of her second family in Iowa City. It’s a close-knit bunch and Peschel is thankful to have a new family in black and gold.

“Having that family atmosphere at Iowa has helped me so much this year,” Peschel said. “If I’m having a bad day, I know I can depend on teammates who are just as supportive as my family.”

Senior Jaime Printy won’t have to worry about inclement weather preventing her from getting back home. She only has a 35 mile trip on I-380 to her house in Marion, Iowa.

“I get to see my family a lot during the year,” Printy said. “It’s even more special during the holidays. I never have to worry about not getting home because of weather. My family is super close, and it’s great to be able to go to school this close to home.”

Christmas Eve is a double-holiday for the Printys. Jaime’s father, Jeff, has a birthday on Christmas Eve.

“We have a pretty big family so we get together with everyone on my dad’s side on Christmas Eve to celebrate both things,” Printy said. “We go to my mom’s side on Christmas day. It’s a blast, and I can’t wait to see everyone.”

After spending four days with family and friends over the holidays, the Hawkeyes will return to Iowa City late on Christmas Day and have one practice on Dec. 26 to prepare for the upcoming San Diego Surf ‘N Slam Classic, hosted by the University of San Diego. Iowa returns to the court Dec. 28 against nationally ranked Texas at 10 p.m. (CT).

Another tough nonconference challenge is waiting for the Hawkeyes after Christmas but for now, there is no place like home for the holidays.