As the world excitedly anticipates the 2012 London Summer Olympics, two Princeton student-athletes will be in the thick of it all. For Tiger field hockey players and sisters Julia and Katie Reinprecht the Olympics marks the pinnacle of an incredible year, as the pair heads to London as members of USA Field Hockey's Olympic team.
The road to London came to fruition after the Reinprechts decided to dedicate the last year to field hockey...to the U.S. Women's Field Hockey Senior National Team. This required the two to take the year off from school and solely commit to training with Team USA.
"The decision to take my senior year off at Princeton to pursue my Olympic dream was by no means easy, nor was it for the rest of the Princeton girls training out in San Diego. I could fathom the idea of postponing my graduation for another year, but the fact that I would not be able to experience my final year at Princeton with some of my best friends and teammates was very difficult to process. Ultimately I think I made the right decision and I have no regrets, but there were plenty of times this year I hoped it was possible to be in two places at one time," explained Katie.
For younger sister Julia, who will be a junior upon her return to Princeton in the fall, "It was a lingering thought. I knew the Olympics were coming up and I was making the decision (whether) to take the year off. In May (of 2011) they named the national team and I knew if I'm going to do this I'm going to have to commit all my time."
During the past year current Princeton players Michelle Cesan '14 and Kathleen Sharkey '13 also chose to spend the year training and competing for USA Field Hockey, along with former Tiger Maren (Ford) Langford '06. With a large contingency hailing from Princeton, it added a sense of comfort for the Reinprechts as they headed west to field hockey's Olympic Training Center in California.
For the Reinprechts and the rest of USA Field Hockey, the year was filled with traveling around the world and games versus top international squads. While they were living out their dream of competing at the highest rank, for the sisters Princeton remained on the forefront of their minds.
"The weirdest thing was when the fall started and everyone was coming back to school. I was following the Princeton field hockey team (online), checking their stats and seeing how they were doing ... The biggest surprise was how I felt being away from my other team," reflected Julia on missing preseason training camp, practices and games with her fellow Tigers.
For Katie, being 3000 miles away from home provided some challenges, as she explained, "One of the toughest parts has been sacrificing, to a certain extent, some of my relationships back home. Moving my life to the other side of the country has definitely been hard. The distance between my family and friends was something that took awhile to adjust to. Fortunately, I happened to get along rather well with a majority of my teammates and I can honestly say that made the transition much easier."
Despite the lingering thoughts of home, Princeton and suiting up in the Orange and Black, the Reinprechts always had each other to lean on for support.
"I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to play alongside my sister. Not only is she a phenomenal player, but she's also an incredible teammate. I think this experience will be all the more satisfying having my best friend there with me," said Katie.
"I am really luck that Katie and I have an amazing relationship... She really is my best friend and we can talk about anything. Also taking the year off, yes I had Michelle and Kat, but having Katie was like having a home away from home - it is so hard to explain. She brings a level of comfort on the field, (since) we have played with each other for so long ... She makes me work hard and has really made this whole opportunity," Julia added.
The sisters, who are roommates on the road, not only have had each other, but the constant support of the Princeton field hockey program through the process. They have had a good mentor in Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, a former national team member herself.
"I think it would be difficult to find many players in the world who can match Katie's work rate ... (Her) fitness and explosiveness combined with her game sense and deft passing skills make her an incredibly dangerous midfielder," said Holmes-Winn.
"Julia is an unbelievable mobile tackler. It is hard for me to even think of a time when I have seen a player get by Julia cleanly. Combine her defensive skills with her ability to track and feed, and you have a very threatening half-back," the veteran coach added.
While the year off provided the sisters the opportunity to train at the highest level, hone their skills and work with elite trainers and coaches, there was always something lingering - would they actually make the 16-player roster headed to London in the summer?
Stay tuned for part two of the Reinprechts "Road to London" on Friday.