Faces in KS: Elise Kaiser

Elise Kaiser is one of the best multiple sport athletes in KS. (photo: Pam Waeaver)
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Sep 9, 2019

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Hesston’s Elise Kaiser, a Newman University basketball commit, is the only current Swather who is a three-sport athlete in volleyball, basketball and track. Kaiser perpetually keeps an upbeat personality, regardless of the circumstances – including a position change in volleyball and historically bad weather at the state track meet.

The granddaughter of former Halstead football coach Steve Seirer, Kaiser greatly enjoys athletics, especially her longtime passions, basketball and track. The oldest of four children, she has always loved school, especially math and science. Kaiser carries a 4.0 grade-point average.

“I always like to look at the positive aspects of every opportunity in life,” Kaiser said.

Seirer served as the head football coach at Halstead from 1985-99, according to Kansas Football History. Seirer first introduced Kaiser to athletics. When she was five, he took her to a track meet.

In fourth grade, Kaiser went to the junior Olympics qualifying meet in Joplin, Mo. with her grandfather. Seirer is present through all of her sports and activities.

“I love my grandpa, so he basically started my passion and love for sports,” she said.

Because of Kaiser’s passion for track, her role model is Allyson Felix, one of the top sprinters in history.

Felix is long known for her positive attitude, competitive drive, grace and leadership qualities. Kaiser vividly remembers watching the 2012 London Summer Olympics where Felix won gold in the 400 relay and 200 dash. Felix has worked for the U.S. State Department on helping youth who are disabled or come from marginalized communities.

“She is a great role model in all aspects of life, not just sports,” Kaiser said.

She delivered praise for her coaches, including Jason Peters, her head coach in volleyball and track, along with longtime Hesston girls’ basketball coach Matt Richardson.

“She is a really positive, energetic person,” Peters said. “Fun to be around her, and other players feed off of that and enjoy being with her as well.”

On Aug. 6, Kaiser posted a picture of her and teammates after the last day of summer high school weights.

Kaiser wrote she was “beyond blessed to have had coaches to push my teammates and I the past five years in the weight room.” She tagged Hesston weight coaches Tyson Bauerle and Doug Broadfoot, also the Swather head football and wrestling coaches, respectively.

“With sports, I always try to be the positive teammate on the court and best positive leader that I can be, and in school and just every aspect,” she said.

The 5-foot-10 Kaiser was the starting libero as a sophomore when Hesston had a bevy of talented hitters. Kaiser is the tallest libero Peters had ever had.

She had never previously played libero, though quickly became one of the team’s top passers.

Peters is in his 15th season as Hesston head volleyball coach, and 18th year with the Swathers. He entered this fall with a career record of 368-181. Hesston was preseason fourth in the Class 3A Kansas Volleyball Association rankings.

“I have always told coach Peters, ‘I will play whatever position he needs me to play that can best benefit the team,’” Kaiser said. “And so my sophomore year, I played libero, so I didn’t even play front row, and so that definitely helped me become a better passer and get a lot more experience.”

Last year, Kaiser moved to middle and outside hitter, along with back row. Despite only playing back row half the time, Kaiser set school records for digs (469) and digs per set (4.51) en route to first team all-league honors.

Kaiser, who had 181 kills, helped Hesston a 32-10 record and fourth place finish in 3A. Hesston is third, second, third and fourth the last four years and has reached state five consecutive falls.

Kaiser did not know about the mark until coach Peters emailed her after the season. She labeled the record “a good bonus.”

“I do not like to lose,” Kaiser said. “…I just don’t want to let the ball hit the floor. I would say I am a very quick player on the court, too, so I feel like I can – even though I haven’t played it as long – I can read the ball, and just be aggressive.”

In basketball, Kaiser collected first team all-state and averaged just shy of 20 points a game. She is just shy of 1,000 career points.She is also a member of Wheat State Elite. In track, Kaiser and her 1,600-meter relay teammates of Marisa Vogt, Emily Koehn and Caryn Yoder warmed up multiple times at the state meet.

The competition took three days to finish, the longest ever Kansas state track meet. The 1,600 relay is the last event.  

“Felt like forever,” Kaiser said.

“Kind of a crazy weekend,” Peters added.

Hesston had posted 4 minutes, 7.87 seconds at regionals. Kaiser, Koehn and Vogt were all juniors and grew up running together, while Yoder was a freshman last year. At state, the Swathers ran 4:04.68 to set the school record.

“When we finally got on the track, I told my girls, ‘We can do this,’” Kaiser said. “It was actually I just had a sense of peace running. I wasn’t even anxious or nervous, and I was just excited to run, and all of our girls ran super good.”

Scott City finished second in 4:06.32. When Kaiser got the baton for the anchor lap, she and SC were virtually tied. Kaiser posted 59.709 seconds and was 1.64 seconds ahead of the Beaver’s last leg.

“I did not want to let down my teammates, and then I didn’t even know we broke the school record until after I looked on the screen at the track, and so that was pretty cool,” Kaiser said. “We had talked about that we were going to be close to breaking the record, but we didn’t know if it was going to happen since the weather was kind of iffy, and we only got to run the race one time. There wasn’t prelims, so it was pretty awesome. The weather was super nice, and the timing was perfect.”

This fall, Kaiser is part of a talented and experienced Swather volleyball team. Senior outside hitter Talby Duerksen returns after she delivered 421 kills and was first team all-state. Senior setter Celbi Richardson earned second team all-league. The Swathers have nine seniors overall, according to their MaxPreps roster.

In the season-opening Central Kansas League tournament last Saturday, Hesston finished second to Nickerson. The Panthers were ranked seventh in Class 4A. Duerksen led the team with 49 kills, Kaiser was second with 30. Kaiser easily led Hesston with 60 digs (4.6 per set).

“All the girls in volleyball, basketball and track, we just get along really well,” Kaiser said. “And so I think when a team gets along really well you can go far and achieve a lot of great things.”

This feature is presented by Wheat State Elite Basketball, proud to support Elise Kaiser. Best of luck this season! We are proud of you!

Also presented by Nex-Tech Wireless, a proud supporter of Sports in Kansas and local sports coverage in Central Kansas. Nominate the Central Kansas Athlete of the Month w/ Sports in Kansas. 

Kaiser Q&A

How did you get involved in sports?

I started running track when I was 5 years old and I started playing basketball when I was in 2nd grade. I did not start playing volleyball until I was in 6th grade because I had invested all of my time into track and basketball up until that point.

What are your goals this season?

My goal this season for our team is to not just make it to state again, but to compete at state. We have made it to state for all 3 years of my high school career so far and we have placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, but we have not been able to finish at the second day of state.

Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?

We definitely have a shot to make a run this year. We have a good solid group of seniors and returning players coming back. As a team, we have realized that this year we have to overcome what we have struggled with in the past seasons to get over that hump to have the outcome we want at the end of the season.

What makes you such a force as a player?

I want to help my teammates play to their highest potential and push them to the best of their abilities. I am very quick on the court and I strive to always be the positive influence and leader my teammates need.

What’s the atmosphere like to play for your school and town?

Volleyball is a very dominant sport in Hesston so it is a huge part of our high school. The student section, families, and fans that come to our games is appreciated so much and as a player I have been so thankful for all of the support over the years.

For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?

I am very competitive; I do not like to lose. So if you want to come see a very competitive team play with a lot of passion I would recommend coming to see the 2019 Swather volleyball team play this year!

Who are other key players on your team?

A few other key players on my team is Talby Duerksen (outside hitter), Celbi Richardson (setter), and Emily Koehn (back row).

Favorite thing about volleyball?

My favorite thing about volleyball is getting to play with my teammates that I have grown up with for most of my life. Also, getting to have fun and playing in the environment that comes with the sport.

Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?

I play basketball and run track. I am a shooting guard and we have had 3 very successful basketball seasons so far. In track, I run the 400m dash, the 4x400 relay, and the 4x100m relay. I have also run the 100m hurdles and the 800m dash. I have been the 3A regional champion in the 400m dash the past 3 years. I have been a 3x state medalist in the 400m dash and a 2x state medalist in the 4x400m relay. My junior year we got 4th in the 4x100m relay and we were the 3A state champions in the 4x400m relay.

What is it like to play for your coach?

Playing for Coach Peters is one of my favorite high school memories. I have never seen someone with so much passion and dedication to the sport of volleyball. He is so organized and puts more time into the sport than us as players realize. He truly cares for each of his players, helps us to become the best volleyball players we can be on the court, and makes playing the game so much fun. I am beyond grateful to have had him as my coach for 4 years.

What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?

Our team played in a summer league in the summer, played in many tournaments, had lots of open gyms, and many players on my team have went to weights to become better volleyball players and better overall athletes.

What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?

I have committed to play basketball at Newman University in college. I am planning on going into the medical field to become either a sports medicine physician, pediatrician, or a physical therapist.

Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?

I spend a lot of my free time in the gym shooting or running at the track but when I am not doing either of those, I am spending time with my siblings and family or I am hanging out with my friends. I love going on bike rides and doing anything that keeps me active.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself hopefully in residency working to become a sports medicine physician or a pediatrician. If I go the physical therapist route, I can see myself working in a clinic. I am a very caring person, so I want to be able to help people and I feel like I can do that through the medical field. I would also like to be married in 10 years.

Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?

My favorite subject in school has always been math but I also enjoy biology and the human aspect of science. I have always loved school and I am a 4.0 GPA student.

Who is your role model?

My role model would have to be Allyson Felix. I grew up watching her run and she just recently she had her first child. She is working toward making it to the 2020 Olympics and she is the perfect example of never giving up for something you really want. Allyson Felix embodies passion, hard work, and determination.

Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?

I live in a pretty small town so there are not many places to eat in Hesston but I would have to say the best place to eat is at our Mexican restaurant, El Cerrito.

One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?

I am a huge Notre Dame fan! I especially love watching the women’s basketball team play.

Anything else to add?

My grandpa is a retired football coach and played football and baseball in college at Fort Hays. He ignited my passion and love for sports when I was five years old. He does not miss many of my games and activities and he is my number one fan, grandpa, and personal coach all in one!