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Kolander sings and scores for Gophers

Simone Kolander performed on stage before fields.
Minnesota forward Simone Kolander fights against Illinois State on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
Image by Chelsea Gortmaker
Minnesota forward Simone Kolander fights against Illinois State on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Gophers freshman forward Simone Kolander belted out the national anthem with pristine pitch before her squad’s Oct. 20 matchup with Nebraska.

Then she hit the pitch.

That sequence alone captured Kolander’s lifelong balancing act between performance and athletics, while excelling in academics to boot.

Theater life

Kolander’s mother wanted her to be well-rounded growing up. She was active in both theater and sports while achieving in school as a child.

Kolander started in theater productions at 9 years old and performed at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters and the Guthrie Theater.

Kolander’s mother, Natalie Kolander, said most of the productions were two- to three-month commitments but said a Chanhassen performance of Beauty and the Beast had a seven-month run.

“During every play, the play would take precedent [over athletics],” Kolander’s mother said. “But when she was in soccer or basketball [as well], she would play those when she could.”

Simone Kolander said she sometimes would go from a show to a basketball tournament to a soccer practice all in the same day.

But Kolander said once she made Lakeville North High School athletics teams, she could no longer perform and play at the same time. So she chose sports.

“That was a big part of my life growing up,” she said. “But I kind of had to pick and choose.”

The voice

The familiar opening stanza of the national anthem is nothing new to Kolander.

She sang the national anthem to open many Gophers sports games growing up, including basketball, hockey and soccer. She also sang at a Minnesota Vikings preseason game.

But as soon as she got to high school, Kolander was eligible for recruiting and could no longer sing at Gophers events. She continued to sing at high school events and community activities. She participated in the Dakota County Fair talent contest and won. She advanced all the way to the finals at the Minnesota State Fair.

“That’s what she was able to do when she could no longer be in [theater],” Natalie Kolander said, adding that her daughter still sings at weddings.

Simone Kolander said soccer is her primary focus right now, but music is still a passion of hers.

“When you love something, it’s hard to not [do it],” Kolander said. “I just have a lot of passions.”

She said she hopes to continue to perform music in some capacity in the future.

“It’s going to be here with me for most of my life,” she said. “If I could do something with music, that would be awesome.”

A family of Gophers

Kolander said the University of Minnesota seemed like the “perfect fit” for her.

Her parents both attended the University. Her father, Chad Kolander, played basketball, and her mother played club soccer.

“I’ve been sporting the Gopher gear since I was a baby,” Simone Kolander said.

Natalie Kolander said she didn’t pressure Simone into attending Minnesota.

But Kolander didn’t need the push. She said she loved the proximity to her hometown, the size of the school and the prospect of facing Big Ten competition.

“I just knew it would be perfect,” she said.

Natalie Kolander said she would have been happy regardless of her daughter’s decision but said she was pleased Simone was staying close to home.

“We didn’t have to throw away any of the Gophers gear that we had in our closets,” Natalie Kolander said, “or buy anything new.”

School and soccer

While balancing school and athletics is tough for any college student, it can be especially challenging for a freshman in the Carlson School of Management.

But Kolander is well-schooled in time management from her performing years.

And no matter how busy she was growing up, her mother said she always made sure she completed her homework. She said Simone would do homework in the car on the way to practice, after practice and even sometimes during play intermissions.

“She learned how to manage her time very well,” Natalie Kolander said.

Simone Kolander said those time management skills are paying off now.

“It is tough, but it’s definitely doable,” she said. “I love soccer, and I wouldn’t say I love homework, but it’s something that I know I need to do.”

She missed her Wednesday, Thursday and Friday classes last week due to the team’s trips to Wisconsin and Purdue, and she could miss plenty more if the team advances to the Big Ten tournament and possibly the NCAA tournament.

But a hectic life is something Kolander’s used to.

“I have been so accustomed to the on-the-go lifestyle,” she said, “going from one thing to another and it not even fazing me.”

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