After a freshman season where he was named an All-American, Austin Rauch is transferring after this semester to Illinois State University.
The now Sophomore decided to transfer a couple of weeks into the semester, somewhat unexpectedly. Rauch had begun thinking about finishing his college career at another school besides Knox College over the summer.
Rauch interned as a field inspector. Rauch worked with plants and that led to him thinking about working with plants after college.
“I walked around and got to spend time with corn and getting acquainted with plants and stuff, and I thought that was really interesting, so I decided to pursue an Agriculture major which we don’t have here at Knox,” Rauch said.
Academically, Rauch was leaving to do what was best for him. Rauch leaving would mean that he would be done with track unless he made arrangements with the coach. So Rauch reached out, and everything was heading towards him transferring after sophomore year.
Things accelerated, however, when the All-American received a text from the coach a week before classes started. The text would require a quick decision from Rauch. A choice that he didn’t expect to be making so soon.
“He offered me a scholarship to go compete there if I transferred at the semester because they had money that opened up,” Rauch said. Initially, Rauch was scared of going from a small, liberal arts school to a big, division one school. But, after visiting the school, his concerns were put to rest.
“I was scared that a D1 school, there are way more people there. They have 20,000 people on their campus as opposed to what, 1300, here? Man, It’s going to be scary going to this bigger campus. Really, It’s pretty similar to here. The only thing that’s spread out are the living situations, but all the academic buildings are in the same centralized location,” Rauch said.
Transferring at any level of school is hard. You’re leaving the friends that you’ve made and the place you’re getting accustomed to. That’s the hardest part about leaving Knox for the Midwest Newcomer of the Year.
Despite all of the success, Rauch still had a very turbulent year. Going into college as an athlete is already difficult due to the level of competition, but it’s even harder when your coach leaves right before the season. Randy Overby, the previous track coach, left the Prairie Fire for Quincy University. Overby’s departure affected the morale of the team.
Besides the coaching, Rauch also said that he was dealing with injuries throughout the year.
“So, consistently, I had lower back problems, knee problems and hip problems. I was doing jumping stuff five times a week, including meets. Doing that much jumping isn’t ideal at all because you keep breaking down your body and don’t give it any time to recover. Those are probably the most significant issues… but then I was also in a boot three days before indoor nationals because I fell off the mat doing a drill,” Rauch said.
Winning the accolades that Rauch did last year is impressive, considering the turmoil that he went through. However, these factors took a toll on him. Last season was not what he envisioned from a team standpoint.
“I stopped caring about track because of all of the injuries, coaching stuff and drama. I stopped showing up, in a sense,” Rauch said. “They placed second or third in the conference I think the past two years, they’re getting up there. I was looking to help build a program that was on the rise. It felt more like a club to me than an actual team. Then there was a lot of division once coach Randy Overby left.”
Throughout a lackluster year, Rauch did have some solace. Joining TKE, one of the Greek fraternities on campus, helped play a role in his growth socially.
“Socially, one of the things that helped get me through last year was joining TKE. Having that brotherhood and that house to fall back on and get my mind off stuff and meeting new people, that really helped me open up as a person. I wasn’t always the most social, and I feel I got a lot more social just through last year alone.”
One of his brothers in TKE was also his roommate. Sophomore Wes Jolly and Rauch roomed together both freshman and sophomore year. Jolly was one of the reasons Rauch was convinced to join TKE because Jolly was already set on joining.
Their friendship was strong enough that they both went to each other’s respective hometowns over the summer to visit each other. The two always went places with each other.
“I think I did everything with him, even this year. It’s been the same thing. We go to lunch and stuff all the time. It’s one of those friendships that just you can’t really get rid of,” Rauch said.
Having a close friend like that proves to be essential to many, especially in college, when young adults are on their own for the first time. Rauch talked to Jolly about the possibility of him leaving.
“He was always talking to me about it, getting my input. He said there’s a chance that after sophomore year, I might leave, still unsure about it,” Jolly said.
Jolly wants Rauch to do what’s best for himself.
“As much as I’m going to miss having him around campus and messing with him and stuff, it’s going to be for the betterment of him, so he needs to go with him for that,” Jolly said.
The two talked about Jolly’s upcoming basketball season and how Rauch will try to catch a couple of games while on winter break, but it’s the little things that Jolly will miss doing with Rauch.
“I’m gonna miss a lot of things. I’ll just miss going to do something like going to Walmart, lunch or dinner. I’ll miss getting into dumb stuff with him,” Jolly said through laughter.
After not getting what he wanted from Track and Field last season, Rauch is excited about what ISU has to offer, especially the coaching.
“Definitely track. Academics are going to be academics; no one really gets excited about that. They have a huge track team, a really knowledgeable coaching staff. I think I’m most excited to see what I can do when I’m coached. I’ve never had a high jump coach before,” Rauch said.
After an exciting first year breaking numerous Knox records, Rauch will look to build on that as he moves to new challenges at the division 1 level.