Athlete plays two sports, earned biology degree in three years
Two-sport athletes are common in high school but a rarity in college. Talia Sherry breaks the mold in more ways than one.
Sherry, a 2016 Eastview High School graduate, is the career scoring leader in women’s lacrosse at the University of Northwestern, a private Christian university in Roseville. The Eagles’ teams play in NCAA Division III.
After one year of college and several years away from competitive basketball, Sherry decided to return to that sport – and earned a spot on the Eagles’ roster as a reserve.
She played two sports while working toward a degree in biology, proving that playing multiple college sports while pursuing a challenging field of study is possible, albeit challenging.
Wait, there’s more.
Sherry earned the undergraduate degree in just three years. Last winter she played basketball for the Eagles, averaging 3.2 minutes per game off the bench for a team that was 16-10, while studying for a master’s degree in organizational leadership.
The pandemic wiped out all but the first four games of Northwestern’s 2020 lacrosse season, leaving Sherry with one year of eligibility remaining in both of her sports. Assuming college sports return in 2020-21, she plans to play while completing her graduate degree online. Then she will look for a job coaching college lacrosse.
“I’ve always liked being super-busy,” Sherry said with a laugh when asked why she would want such a hectic schedule. “I don’t know of any Division I athletes that are doing it, but I think it is doable.
“You definitely have to be organized. For me, I try to get as much of my school work as possible done during the day so I can play sports in the evening. Even if I have a 15-minute break during the day, I’ll try to work on something.”
Sherry also coaches in the Minnesota Loons club lacrosse program and would have been one of the Eastview High coaches if the Lightning’s season had not been canceled. “I would have made it (to Eastview practice) as often as I could during the college season,” she said. “The college season usually ends in early May, when there are still several weeks left in the high school season.”
And that’s not all. This spring she is working two part-time jobs, one as a personal trainer and the other as a pharmacy technician.
Sherry’s school and conference took note of her dedication. She was one of three winners of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Leadership Award. Sherry also won Northwestern’s Eagle Award, which is based on criteria including academic honors, athletic accomplishments and ministry involvement.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting those awards at all,” she said, “but it’s so rewarding to get that kind of recognition from your school.”
After her first three seasons of college lacrosse, Sherry was her school’s career leader in assists and points. She went into the 2020 schedule needing five goals to take over the career lead in that statistic. She had seven goals in those four games.
Sherry is a leader on the lacrosse team and a lightly used reserve on the basketball team – roles that call for markedly different approaches, she said.
“In lacrosse, I’m trying to keep everybody energized because my teammates are looking for that from me,” she said. “Basketball is different. I don’t play that much, so I’m trying to support the players who are out on the floor.”
Sherry also had played soccer and cross country at Eastview. She stopped playing basketball after her sophomore year, but after getting to college started investigating ways to get back in that sport.
“Our athletic director, Matt Hill, has been so supportive of me the whole time,” said Sherry, who was on the Northwestern dean’s list for all six of her undergraduate semesters. “He and my coaches (Sarah Connally in lacrosse and Aaron Kahl in basketball) helped me set it up so I could play both sports. They know if I can’t be at a practice it’s because of an academic commitment.”
Hill, in particular, understood what Sherry was trying to accomplish. The athletic director also is a Northwestern alumnus and lettered in four different sports.
After earning her biology degree Sherry was accepted into the University of Wisconsin veterinary school. But she wanted to complete her athletic eligibility at Northwestern first. Then she decided on a new career path, one she hopes will take her into coaching. She’s not sure where that will be. Her fiance plans to go to medical school, and her coaching career likely will begin wherever they land.
But she’s not ready just yet to close the book on her playing career. “I hope our teams can do well next year,” Sherry said, “but mostly I want to have fun my last year.”
Sonnenburg wins Wheeler Award
University of Northwestern junior Amanda Sonnenburg, a Lakeville native, was named 2020 winner of the Wheeler Award, given to top women’s and men’s track and field athletes at National Christian College Athletic Association schools.
Sonnenburg, who competed in track and field at Apple Valley High School, was women’s pole vault champion at the 2020 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference indoor meet. She cleared 3.35 meters (10 feet, 10 inches), which is a school and personal record. She won the pole vault in three consecutive indoor meets this season.
Sonnenburg is a biology major with a 3.34 grade-point average.