MINOOKA – Hard work pays off.
Joliet Catholic Academy junior Kara Wilhelm always was athletic. Early on, she could play any sport and do well, but when a family moved into the neighborhood, another athlete sparked an interest in her.
The Leonard family came from the East Coast, and Alexa played lacrosse. The two spent time outside playing lacrosse and Wilhelm became increasingly passionate about a sport that was not as common in the Midwest.
Since then, the incoming junior has balanced multiple sports and currently plays varsity basketball for the Angels and club lacrosse.
All her hard work is showing results. This summer, Wilhelm was one of 80 girls named high school All-Americans by US Lacrosse from among 5,000 athletes.
“It was a huge accomplishment for me,” said Wilhelm, who lives in Minooka. “It took a lot of hard work and commitment. I would miss basketball, which even though that is not my main focus, it was important to me. I was committed to lacrosse.
“Working hard and knowing that the sacrifices that I’d make ended in [being named an All-American] is huge. If I didn’t make the team, it would make me want to work harder for next year.
“Making it made me feel like it finally paid off. Everything that I did paid off. I made my family proud. I made my friends proud and my coaches proud of me. I made myself proud.”
After developing a love for the game, Wilhelm asked her parents whether she could play lacrosse. They found Players 360 Select Lacrosse in Naperville.
Wilhelm attributes her success to the support that she receives from her family and friends, but also her coaches and Players 360. Coaches Ronni Kleuner and Christina Fried have pushed Wilhelm to become a better player, and she looks forward to continuing to learn from them.
“They both put me through challenges that I never saw myself doing and they pushed me and took me under their wing,” she said. “They basically got me to where I am now.”
One reason Wilhelm has been able to succeed is her drive and passion.
After the IHSA made lacrosse a high school sport, Wilhelm handed out fliers at JCA asking who was interested in playing lacrosse. She then collected the results, filed them, counted them and separated them by grade and gender.
Joliet Catholic does not have a girls program yet, but the school recently added a boys program.
“I tried starting a lacrosse team at my school,” Wilhelm said. “It was difficult, but there were a lot of people that did want to do it. Even though I play at club and I talk about lacrosse a lot, I hope that I’m catching peoples’ attention and maybe making them more interested.”
Even though it can be difficult to play two sports and do well in school, Wilhelm has found a way to excel. She is passionate about all three, but the most important thing to her is her education. If that suffers, she will have to consider making changes.
Going to college has been Wilhelm’s focus and playing lacrosse will give her a better opportunity to pick her best option. She is weighing her options based on what would benefit her career.
Wilhelm’s long-term goal is to become a forensic pathologist.
“I know that it will be a lot of schooling, but it’s something that I’m willing to do,” Wilhelm said. “I’ve always had an interest in science. That’s always been my strong suit.
“A while back, my friend passed away in a car accident. When they looked at the scene, they were able to see how it happened. Just the satisfaction I know that I can give someone by doing that job, I know that their family would not sleep another day if they didn’t understand why it happened. I wouldn’t want other families to go through that.”
To attain her goals, Wilhelm will need to stay focused and work hard.
Now that she has been named All-American, that has only made her want to get better. She believes there always will be someone better, so she has to keep pushing herself to reach her full potential.
If she continues to do well, she will put herself in a better position for college.
“I’m always on myself to work hard,” Wilhelm said. “I want a good future and a lot of people do not get the opportunity to go to college. With the way that everything is going for me, I know that I will have some opportunity and that pushes me to work harder and not take things for granted.”