Excerpted from the Athletics website.
Alyssa Wisdom, now a senior, competing in May 2011 in the Payton Jordan Invitational at the Cobb Track and Angell Field. Photo credit: Richard C. Ersted
Academics and athletics are cornerstones of the Stanford experience. But equally important to some scholar-athletes is a resource sometimes overlooked: Stanford Hospital. It’s what helped sell ALYSSA WISDOM and may have saved her life.
A senior from Coral Springs, Fla., Wisdom suffered from hypertension and a heart condition growing up and was easily fatigued. She saw dozens of doctors, but wasn’t properly diagnosed until she arrived at Stanford in 2010 to compete on the track and field team.
An accomplished sprinter, Wisdom came to the Farm seeking track success and answers to her health problems and found both.
As a freshman in 2010, Wisdom finished fourth in the 100 and seventh in the 200 in the Big Meet. But it would be the last time she sprinted for the Cardinal. Doctors diagnosed her with a rare condition called congenital hypertrophic cardiac myopathy, and said the strenuous training could lead to a stroke or heart attack.
“It was hard because freshman year you are going through so many changes,” she said. “To get everything thrown at me at once … it was a lot to deal with. I actually didn’t know where to start. My life had just fallen apart.”
So Wisdom did what she has always done: leaned on her mother, Yvet, a registered nurse, and older brother, George, for guidance and support.
As a senior in high school, Wisdom threw the shot put at the district meet—just to score points for her team—and wound up leading her team to victory with a winning toss of 32-3½. She had no plans to throw in college until doctors told her to stop sprinting.
“What I lack in size, I make up for in strength because I am very, very strong,” she laughed. “I may not have the size of other shot putters, but I’ve got the muscles.”
With encouragement and instruction from the Cardinal coaching staff, Wisdom improved quickly and won the shot put at the Big Meet in 2011 with an outdoor season-best throw of 48-3½. She also placed fourth in the hammer throw.
Last year, she recorded the fifth-best indoor showing in school history by putting the shot 50-8¾ in the MPSF Championships. During the outdoor season, Wisdom placed third in the Pac-12 Championships at 51-6½.
Continuing to refine her technique, she produced a personal-best 55-8¼ at the 2013 MPSF Indoors and qualified for her first NCAA Championships.
“Obviously, she is very gifted strength-wise, very explosive and very quick,” said MICHELLE EISENREICH, associate head coach and throws coach at Stanford. “I think the other thing that’s impressive is just her ability to focus in and make technical adjustments and changes. She’s really become a good student of the event.”
That’s not surprising considering Wisdom earned Pac-12 All-Academic second-team honors last year and was named to the USTFCCA All-Academic team. Wisdom is majoring in psychology and minoring in Italian.
“My concentration is mind, culture and society, which is multi-culturalism,” she said. “I’m doing lab research on how being from different backgrounds can be a positive thing.”
Wisdom, who will return to Stanford next year to complete a co-terminal degree in psychology and has one year of eligibility remaining, is making the most of her experience. She started working in a homeless shelter in Florida during grade school and returns every summer. Through Stanford, Wisdom has volunteered in Italy and India, the latter a two-month service for female abandonment through the Haas Center for Public Service.
“I love this institution,” said Wisdom. “I’ve gotten to explore all of my interests, and the resources at this school are unsurpassed. That’s the reason I’ve been able to go abroad and expand my research past the confines of my country’s borders. I’m pretty sure when I leave Stanford, I’m going to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.”
It’s hard to imagine any scholar-athlete who appreciates Stanford more than Wisdom. She has given back as much as she has taken, proving resilient every step of the way.
“Sometimes you take an ideal path to get to your ultimate goal, and sometimes it’s very hard to see that things will work out in the end,” said Wisdom. “But they do.”
Read the full story by MARK SOLTAU on the Stanford Athletics website.