Thursday, April 8, 2010

Siblings extend family tradition as Tech athletes

Here's my latest article for The Collegiate Times.

Chicago maroon and burnt orange are two colors that have run through the Blow family since 1979 when Carol and Mike Blow entered their freshmen year at Virginia Tech.

Now, more than 30 years later, their children, Katie and Matt, continue that tradition of representing Tech by attending school in Blacksburg just like their parents did.

Katie is a sophomore human, nutrition, food and exercise major, and Matt is a senior residential property management major.

Other than the fact that the Blow children attend the same school,  there is another factor that makes their relationship quite unique.

Matt and Katie are talented varsity athletes.

Matt is a redshirt junior on the Tech baseball team. Splitting his time between first and third base, he has amassed a .271 career batting average in three years. This season, he plays a vital utility role for the Hokies.

Katie is a member of the Tech tennis team. In two years of work, she has compiled an impressive 26-15 overall record. This year, she is one of the rising stars on a young team that features just two juniors as its eldest members.

Their mother explained how two children from one family can make it to such a high level at the same school.

“They’ve always been really close,” Carol Blow said. “They’ve had a bit of competition between the two of them, I guess, but in a friendly way. They’re very supportive of each other.

“Growing up, Matt spent a lot of time teaching Katie how to do whatever it was he was doing, whether it was catching for baseball or something else. They’ve both been huge supporters of each other. Now it’s tough for them to go to each other’s events, but they do go when they can.”

Both Katie and Matt believe that being away at school together has made them closer than they were prior to college.

“We’ve always been really good friends,” Katie said. “And we’ve actually become better friends since we’ve been here at Tech.”

“We’re both really competitive with each other,” Matt added. “I’ll definitely go home and play some tennis with her, and she’ll come out and throw the baseball with me.”

Matt transferred to Tech from the College of William & Mary after his freshman year. Coincidentally, he had been faced with the same decision in his senior year of high school.

While he initially decided to attend William & Mary, it didn’t take long for him to realize it wasn’t where he belonged.

“William & Mary wasn’t the school for me,” Matt said. “It ended up not being the school for me. It was a long process but in the end, I’m happy with the choice I made.”

Matt’s decision to transfer proved to be beneficial for the entire family, though, as the following year Katie made her decision to play tennis for the Hokies.

“Obviously the tennis was a big factor in coming here, but him being here was definitely a positive factor,” Katie said.

Even though both Katie and Matt ended up at Tech, neither of them felt they were pressured by their parents to come to Blacksburg to represent the Hokies.

“They never pushed us to go to Tech when we were growing up but both Matt and I just love it here,” Katie said.

Their mother agreed, adding that although she and her husband were ecstatic the kids chose Tech, they weren’t a factor in either decision.

“We’re thrilled that they chose Tech,” Carol said. “Each of them made a decision independent of one another and it’s just kind of funny that they both chose Tech. It’s a good fit for them both academically and athletically.”

Carol and Mike make frequent trips to Blacksburg to support their children.

“We try to come as often as we can,” Carol said. “It’s not very often that baseball and tennis play in Blacksburg at the same time, but when those weekends happen, we’ll be there.”

Matt says he enjoys the time he gets to spend with his parents when they do visit.

“I know every time they come back we’ll always go out and walk around campus and they’ll say ‘This is new,’” Matt said. “They really like coming back to Blacksburg, and it really helps that we’re here so they are able to do that.”

Even though their schedules are sometimes hectic and usually overlap with one another, the siblings try to support each other as much as they can by showing up at each other’s events.

“I usually get to go to a lot of his weekday games,” Katie said. “I go to the ones on the weekends when I can.”

“It’s hectic,” Matt said. “Our schedules are pretty busy during the spring. She’ll be on the road one weekend and I’ll be on the road, or I’ll be on the road and she’ll be on the road. It’s tough, but we try to do what we can.”

Through hard work throughout the season and offseason, the Blow siblings have experienced success in their respective sports.

Tennis head coach Terry Ann Zawacki-Woods said it’s clear the kids were raised well.

“Katie’s such a team player,” Zawacki-Woods said. “She’s one of the hardest workers on our team so she really does a great job of setting the standard in practice. She’s shown a lot of improvement so she’s just a very positive force on our squad.

“Her work ethic is second to none,” she continued. “She works so hard at everything both on the tennis court and in the classroom. She’s such a perfectionist she’ll be out here, until she gets her stroke just right, which is just a pleasure to coach.”

The baseball team is off to a great start this year, earning a national ranking of No. 25 this week thanks to a 21-10 overall record. Matt has contributed two homeruns and 10 RBIs. He is currently batting .286 for the Hokies.

Baseball head coach Pete Hughes can count on Matt’s leadership qualities as well as his contributions on the field.

“Matty’s a kid who’s developed real leadership qualities,” Hughes said. “Whether he’s playing or not he doesn’t back down vocally ... he’s going to speak up.”

“He has a positive team-first attitude,” Hughes said. “He’s the most improved guy in our program hands down. He was our fall MVP.”

Matt’s versatility to play both first and third base allows Hughes to make more moves when a victory is on the line.

“He gives us some flexibility to make some moves late in the game,” Hughes said. “I have no problem putting him at third. That just speaks for the type of athlete and baseball player he is.”

While Mike and Carol are thrilled that their children are representing the Hokies on the playing field, Carol is just excited that herkids get to experience Tech like she did.

“It’s such a unique atmosphere and Hokie Nation is really like nothing out there,” she said.

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