Degree of priorities

Spectator Editorial It has been one year since the terrible attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., and it is time to do our part to make sure that our leaders in politics do not use the attacks and subsequent

Spectator Editorial It has been one year since the terrible attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., and it is time to do our part to make sure that our leaders in politics do not use the attacks and subsequent "War on Terrorism" as a stepping stone to further their own agendas.

Story by Chris Reinoos

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The life of a Div. III student athlete can be very demanding. Many of them must balance a full school courseload with the responsibilities to their team. Because athletic scholarships are not granted at the Div. III level, some student-athletes must find time to work a job as well.

For Nicole Christianson, those are the easy parts.

Christianson, a starting guard on the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team, has a 2-year-old daughter named Rylie. When she found out in the fall of 2008 that she was pregnant, Christianson was surprised.

“I’m the type of person who was planning on having kids, just not that young,” Christianson said.

At the time, Christianson, now 23, was a sophomore at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she played on the basketball team. Even though she loves basketball, Christianson said her focus upon finding out she was pregnant shifted immediately from the court.

“I don’t think I was even worried about basketball at the time,” Christianson said. “(Basketball) just kind of took a backseat.”

She enrolled back at Mankato for the fall 2009 semester, but soon figured out she wanted to have more family support to help raise her daughter. Being from Chetek, a small town about 45 minutes north of Eau Claire, Christianson said Eau Claire felt like a good fit.

Eau Claire women’s basketball coach Tonja Englund had a strong first impression of Christianson when the two met.

“We did hit it off,” Englund said. “It was one of those history-making conversations.”

As a basketball player, Christianson has been a key contributor to the team in her two years. She finished second on the team in scoring last year with 9.8 points per game while starting every game. This season, she has raised her average to 11.4 points per game while again starting every contest for a team that won a share of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title.

Junior guard Casteele Miller said Christianson’s value to the team cannot be overstated.

“When it’s crunch time and we need a play at the end of the game, we go to Nicole to make that play for us,” Miller said.

Christianson said that Rylie, who will be three in April, has been to nearly all the team’s home games the last two seasons and even some of the road games. Her parents bring Rylie to the games and have been very supportive of their daughter. Christianson said her father watches Rylie two times a week, while she goes to day care the other three weekdays.

Because of her busy schedule and daily commute to and from Chetek, there are days where Christianson does not see Rylie as much as she would like. Mondays in particular are long days since she has class until 8:30 p.m. But Christianson said the work will pay off when she is able to support both Rylie and herself.

“I know it’s not a lot of time to see her on those days,” Christianson said. “But I just make the most of it and try to think of the positives.”

Miller, a close friend of Christianson’s, considers her a great mom. She said balancing school, basketball and being a mom must be overwhelming at times, but Christianson pulls it off.

“Doing that all says a lot about the type of person she is,” Miller said. “She’s just a very humble person, very hard-working.”

Christianson’s basketball eligibility ends after this season, but she still has another year before she graduates. She said the team is still ready to make a run in the postseason, however.

“We can definitely go far in the tournament this year,” Christianson said. “I think everyone is just rising to the occasion and playing their best basketball.”

Englund said she doesn’t like to think in terms of replacing seniors because there is always roster turnover in collegiate athletics. But she said there is no doubt that Christianson’s shooting and court leadership will be missed.

Christianson plans on moving from Chetek to a bigger city after graduating to pursue career opportunities. Without basketball in her schedule next year, she plans on getting a job and, of course, spending as much time as possible with Rylie.

Englund had nothing but high praise for Christianson and said she will go down as one of the best players in Blugold women’s basketball history.

“Nicole is just a very genuine, down-to-earth person,” Englund said. “I have a great amount of respect for what Nicole has done in the two years that she’s been here, and she’s a class act.”

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