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The Real Deal: Total Balancing Act

Dec. 15, 2017

By Mandy Housenick columnist

Anna Ptasinski is a four-year member of the Lafayette women's basketball team, a peer mentor, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, a member of the Oaks Leadership Academy, secretary of Lafayette Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisor and a leader of the  Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The senior also is a Dean's List honoree as a biology major with an eye on medical school next year.

So, it is difficult to find Ptasinski in one place for long.

One's best bet to track her down is Sunday nights in the kitchen of her campus house, where she's preparing her meals for the week. It is a schedule Ptasinski must stick to.

"I have known since sophomore year in high school that I had Celiac disease," she said. "And, I have been allergic to dairy and eggs since the summer after my freshman year in college."

Ptasinski's health rests on her dedication to monitoring everything she eats. Celiac disease and her other allergies don't care if she's on the road with the Lafayette women's basketball team with limited restaurant options.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine. It affects one in 100 people worldwide, according to The only treatment is strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet.

Ptasinski avoids foods with wheat, rye and barley. Ingesting even crumbs from a toaster or cutting board could damage her small intestine.

"I make lots of chicken and some different veggies," she said. "It's more of a prep thing. I prepare way ahead of time. It's an adjustment to plan my grocery shopping and how to not get super bored with the same grilled chicken salad."

Ptasinski has not been bored since her first day on Lafayette's campus. She's made it her mission to mature and develop into a well-rounded individual, one who has broadened her horizons, expanded her personality and made sure she's helped everyone she has come in contact with.

The Colorado native came to College Hill as a shy 17-year-old from a private Catholic high school about 10 miles outside of Denver.

She'll leave in May as a confident, upbeat, outgoing 22-year-old with a wide range of friends and influences and four years closer to becoming a doctor.

"She's amazing," fellow senior women's basketball player Sammy Stipa said. "She always has a positive attitude. She makes your day all the time. She's always there to listen. She's always thinking of others. She's always there for me.

"She is everything you can ask for in a friend."

Ptasinski had a leg up on most incoming freshmen transitioning to college. Her lone sibling, Joey, was a senior member of the Lafayette men's basketball team. He and his friends, including Seth Hinrichs and Dan Trist, provided Anna with guidance and a road map to success.

Anna's relationship with her brother and his close friends led her down her existing path.

"Seth and Dan were also like my big brothers," she said. "Having those people to look up to, I wanted to be that to someone."

"Having my big brother around for a year was really amazing. I know I don't have younger siblings, but I wanted to do for someone else what Joey did for me."

Anna's role in Peer Mentoring helped fulfill that promise to herself. She meets with her students once a week, spending up to three hours each week with them.

"It's the connection she's able to establish with our first-year students.When you look at what Anna does and what she's involved in, it's probably really intimidating, but she has an ability to really connect with them no matter what their major is or their ability or what their sport is."

- Lafayette Student Athlete Academic Support Coordinator Carly Riepenhoff.

Ptasinski also monitors the Structured Study group, which is comprised of first-year students and those whose GPA falls below a certain level, for another two hours a week.

Carly Riepenhoff, Lafayette's student-athlete academic support coordinator, knows the students who are mentored by Ptasinski are fortunate.

"It's the connection she's able to establish with our first-year students," Riepenhoff said. "When you look at what Anna does and what she's involved in, it's probably really intimidating, but she has an ability to really connect with them no matter what their major is or their ability or what their sport is.

"That only benefits them."

Ptasinski has benefited from every opportunity she has had in her four years at Lafayette, including having a BFF in Stipa, whom she's lived with since freshman year; her relationships with professors, especially Robert Kurt; and making time to shadow doctors with a variety of specialties.

While she is excited for the next step in her journey, to find out where her true passion lies in the medical field, Ptasinski already is missing the life she's carved out at Lafayette.

"Every day, I think I should be a freshman and Joey should be a senior," she admitted. "Time has gone by way too fast. I have tried to cherish every moment.

"Destination is a great thing, but I'm trying to take in every little detail about Lafayette. It's been an amazing journey. This is my last everything, and it seems so weird to me."

Ptasinski will leave in May with no regrets, just a desire to get more of what Lafayette was able to offer her.

Chances are, the lives she touched while on College Hill, also will have a desire of more Anna Ptasinski.