The Wolverine

April 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 67 of 75

68 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2019 BY JOHN BORTON E mily Klueh fought her way through all the college student-athlete chal- lenges — culture shock, academic ad- justment, physical rigors — to become a national champion swimmer. These days, she's a champion of an- other sort. She champions the cause of Michigan athletes facing all sorts of mental and emotional challenges. The former Emily Brunemann serves as an athletic counselor at Michigan and also operates as pro- gram coordinator for Athletes Con- nected. That's the collaborative effort of Michigan athletics, the School of Public Health and the Depression Center, providing education and assis- tance to those with a variety of needs. Klueh could never have envisioned her present role, coming out of Cre- sent Springs, Ky. Recruiters didn't see her as an elite athlete when she prepared for college. But Michigan women's swimming coach Jim Richardson took a chance on her. He saw something in her, and it still influences Michigan athletics in all sports, years after Klueh finished her time at Canham Natatorium. "I really wanted to go to a very com- petitive academic and athletic pro- gram," Klueh recalled. "I was looking at a lot of the Big Ten schools. When I took a trip up here, I really loved the team, I really loved the coaches. I loved what the school had to offer." A scholarship tender from Rich- ardson sealed the deal, and Klueh insisted, "It's a decision I've never regretted, and I'm thankful every day for the opportunity." The transition didn't come without difficulty, which isn't unusual. She moved from a small town in Kentucky to Ann Arbor, with no parents around, and knowing no one except teammates met only on a recruiting weekend. "It was a shock," Klueh admitted. "It took me a little bit of time to get used to everything." The adjustment involved the pool as well. She didn't achieve instant success as a freshman distance swimmer, while getting used to a new training style, the time commit- ment, academics and the typical list of freshman challenges. Assistant coach Stefanie Kerska proved a huge help in those days, as a mentor and supporter. Klueh also worked with Greg Harden, Michigan's longtime athletics counseling guru and now executive associate athletic director. They and teammate Susan Gilliam helped Klueh through those early days, including one issue that re- mained throughout nearly her entire athletic career at Michigan. By mid- year, she'd cut back significantly on her consumption. "You'd be surprised how common disordered eating is in athletics," Klueh noted. "I struggled for a long time with body image, and about halfway through my freshman year, I really started restricting what I was eating." That wasn't going away anytime soon. "I won an NCAA title when I was at my worst with my eating disorder. That was one of the hardest things in coming out of it," she noted. "I was performing really well. It was almost reinforcing what I was doing. "I was drinking a lot of coffee to get through the day. I was partaking in healthy habits." Her efforts in the pool began get- ting healthy her sophomore year. The upward arc began with a declaration to her somewhat skeptical father. The two often talked about athletic goals, and Klueh set a high one for herself entering her second year at Michigan. "I remember making a deal with my dad after my freshman year," she said. "That was really motivating for me. I told him, I'm going to be top eight at NCAAs my sophomore year. He looks at me and he's like, 'Okay.' "I had gotten 45th or something the year before. It was really an amazing year to learn and push myself." It didn't hurt that some of the best swimmers in the world were all around, pushing themselves. The post-grad group training at Michigan those days was incredible, headlined by Olympic icon Michael Phelps. "I was learning in the sport and really wanting to improve, and here were literally the best swimmers in the world training with me," she said. "It was a great opportunity for me to learn from them how to be a good swimmer." But top eight at the NCAA Cham- pionships? That goal seemed lofty, even to her biggest supporters. She finished fourth in the 1,650 freestyle at the NCAA Champion- ships that season. "I was extremely excited about that," Klueh said. "That drove my pas- sion and excitement for the years to come. I had done well in high school, but it wasn't on a national level. It was a taste of being at the top of our sport, and it was really exciting to me." Her pre-junior year conversation in- volved Kirska, during a walk around Michigan's outdoor track at the very beginning of the year. This time, Klueh's sights were set even higher. "I just remember saying, 'Steph, this year I would like to be unde- feated in the 500 and mile in every race I swim,'" Klueh recalled. It didn't happen in the 500. But it did   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Former Swimmer Emily Klueh Now Helps Michigan Student-Athletes Klueh was a five-time All-American for the Wolverines and won the national title in the 1,650-yard freestyle as a junior in 2008. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - April 2019