Eastern Kan. native ready to begin Tiger cheer career



By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Her dad is a graduate of Washburn University's School of Law in Topeka. Her best friend chose Emporia State University, and her mom is an ESU grad. And her two older brothers are students at the University of Kansas.

But Jenna Witteman decided to go a different route.

Rather than choose one of three state universities all within an hour or two of her home, Witteman decided to travel across the state from her home in LeRoy to Fort Hays State University.

"I'm all about how it feels when I'm (someplace)," Witteman said. "And I really liked it here."

From the looks of her dorm room in Wiest Hall, Witteman is here to stay.

"I'm kind of organized," she said with a grin Sunday while showing off her closet featuring a hanger with neatly folded clothes as well as a shoe organizer. Brightly decorated sets of plastic drawers held more of her belongings under her loft bed, and a large tan and brown area rug covered a large portion of the tile floor.

Check-in day at the FHSU residence halls for the fall semester for most students is Thursday, and classes begin Aug. 20. But Witteman was among those who came to campus early to begin practicing for a sport or participating in a campus organization.

Witteman, a freshman on the Tiger cheerleading squad, is excited about beginning practice this afternoon.

"I looked at dance teams (at colleges), too; it's second nature to me," said Witteman, who has been a member of dance studios since she was 3 years old.

"But cheerleading is more of a challenge to me. I'm always learning more and have to keep working at it."

Making the Tiger cheer squad was just one thing that brought Witteman to FHSU.

Her first ever trip to Hays was her freshman year in high school with her school's girls' basketball team that qualified for the Class 1A state tournament.

She made a mental note of the campus while visiting the next two years as well, while competing in the 1A state volleyball tourney.

During each of those state tournament trips, the superintendent of the LeRoy school district, Mike Kastle, tried to convince students from Southern Coffey County High School that his alma mater was a good place to attend college.

"He's always trying to get us to come out this way," said Witteman, who received an FHSU scholarship offered each year by Kastle, who spent 26 years as a high school administrator in nearby Ransom before moving to LeRoy in 2003.

Witteman, who visited Washburn and also considered Pittsburg State, said she made up her mind about which college to attend after participating in an FHSU scholarship recognition program in Topeka in January.

"After that, I came to campus for a visit and knew this is where I wanted to come," she said.

Witteman especially liked what she learned about the art department.

"I've been interested in interior design since I was little," said Witteman, who is an art and design major with an emphasis in interior design. "The faculty is so welcoming, and I'm looking forward to a lot of the art classes we weren't able to take in high school."