KOKOMO, Ind. - Keep on growing.
That’s the advice of three Indiana University Kokomo graduates, who are the first-ever four-year athletes from this campus.
“I want to see our athletics programs be even better, especially for the women coming in to play volleyball,” said Lael Larrick, who played on the first women’s volleyball team, and stayed with the program all four years of college. “We can only build it by staying and graduating. That’s what will make us stronger, and I wanted to set that example.”
Jared Lawrence and Aaron Knupp, both May graduates and members of the IU Kokomo basketball team, joined Larrick as first four-year student athletes. All three made a commitment to never giving up and being the example—that was the driving force behind their success.
“Quitting was never an option,” said Knupp. “No matter how difficult or challenging it was, I didn’t want to be a quitter. And it’s been really great to have Jared there. He’s family and a best friend.”
Lawrence and Knupp, both from Springport, have known each other since childhood and were each other’s support systems throughout the years.
“We’ve been playing basketball together our entire lives, and it’s made it that much easier to play in college,” said Lawrence. “I’m very lucky to have been able to do what I love at the collegiate level. Not many people get to say that.”
Knupp graduated with a bachelor’s in health sciences, focusing on sports and fitness, and a minor in psychology. Lawrence completed his degree in business marketing.
“When I first started the volleyball program, I never would have guessed that I would look back and see what I see now,” said Larrick, who graduated in May with a degree in communication arts. “We began that first season wanting to see what we could do as a team, and now we are competitive, we want to win conference tournaments, and we want to make it to nationals. We’ve grown so much, and I am very proud to have been a part of that.”
In addition to being student athletes, all three were full-time students, participated in campus activities, worked on and off campus, and completed internships.
“The main thing for student athletes to remember is you are here to get a great education, and you have to take advantage of every opportunity to do well,” said Lawrence. “The four years go by so quickly, so do your absolute best and just enjoy playing your sport.”
Lawrence served in Enactus as a project manager for healthy living initiatives on campus, worked at the Welcome Center, in addition to an off-campus job. He hopes to pursue a career in insurance sales.
Larrick worked in the Chancellor’s office, and completed two internships with Kokomo Herald and Bona Vista. She plans to pursue a career in a communications-related field or within human resources.
Knupp was a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, served as an Admissions Ambassador, worked in Physical Plant and the Cole Fitness Center on campus, and refereed for intramural sports. He completed an internship with the campus’ athletic trainer and worked with the volleyball team. He is interning in his hometown, working with sports medicine, and physical and athletic training. Knupp plans to pursue a master’s degree in sports performance.
“IU Kokomo has been a second home to me, and it’s weird to think I won’t be playing basketball this fall,” said Knupp. “It’s a good feeling to be able to start a career.”
“This is such an exciting and nerve-wracking time,” said Larrick. “I’m so proud to have been an athlete, full-time student, and graduate in four years. It was such a big and important goal for me since the beginning, and I accomplished it.”
Lawrence is the all-time leading scorer at IU Kokomo for men’s basketball, and he and Larrick were named Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s player of the week during their respective seasons. Knupp recently received the 2015 Outstanding Student Leader Award.
Lawrence, Knupp, and Larrick said they wouldn’t be where they are today without the generous support of IU Kokomo faculty and staff, their coaches, and their teammates.
“So many people here did so much for us and supported us on and off the court,” said Lawrence. “I don’t think they’ll ever realize how great they are and how much we appreciate it.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.