Purple ambassadors: Wildcat student-athletes represent K-State at international level

K-State Alumni Communications and K-State Athletics Communications

Kansas State University junior and volleyball player Katie Brand will travel to China this summer to compete with the U.S. Collegiate National Team. (Photo: David Mayes '96)

Junior Katie Brand is already a star on the volleyball court at Kansas State University; now she’ll be able to show off her skills on an international stage as she travels to China this summer to compete with the U.S. Collegiate National Team.

Brand has earned a spot on the U.S. Collegiate National Team two times before, but this will be her first time to compete internationally. Of the 36 athletes selected for the team, only the top 12 are invited to travel to China. Brand will be joining that elite group.

The past year has been an exciting one for Brand, who is a setter on the K-State volleyball team. Last fall, she was the only student-athlete in Division I averaging more than 11.0 assists, 3.0 digs, 1.0 kills, 0.75 blocks and 0.15 aces per set. The all-around player also led Big 12 setters in points and celebrated a trip to the NCAA Tournament with her team. The team’s roster last fall included no seniors, so Brand stepped in to fill a leadership role. 

“Personally, I feel like the biggest jump I’ve made from last year to this year has been in my leadership and the way I’ve been able to connect with my teammates,” Brand said. “When you’re young, you have to focus a lot on yourself and just getting your job done, but once you’re able to kind of let that go a little bit, focus on others and really have an outward perspective, I feel like that’s when you really grow. The stats and the numbers, it’s not what I look at anymore as much as how my team is doing, how people are feeling and getting a sense of what our chemistry is like on and off the court.”

She said her past experiences with the U.S. Collegiate National Team have helped her to compete at a higher level.

“Going away and experiencing that higher level of competition, I got to play with the best of the best, so to see their execution level and what they expect, their expectations were so high,” she said. “So to be able to bring that back here and realize, ‘Hey, we’re not that far off.’ I brought that back, raised our expectations a little bit and executed at a little higher level.”

Track and field athlete Akela Jones is hoping to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. (Photo: David Mayes '96)
Brand isn’t the only Wildcat athlete drawing international attention. Track and field athlete Akela Jones hopes to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. She will return to her home in Barbados this summer to participate in her country’s national trials.

Jones, who is a senior, has broken numerous records during her time at K-State and recently won a national title in the high jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships. For her, competing at the Olympics would be a dream come true. 

“From the time I realized that I was a little better than average, it was always a dream of mine,” she said.

Want to read more about Katie Brand and Akela Jones? Watch for a cover story on these two star athletes in the summer issue of the K-Stater magazine. Become a member by May 12 to receive this issue. 

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