“To be good at what you do, you have to really put the work in outside of normal practice time,” says Kristina Lynch, forward for the Seminoles Soccer team and master’s student in exercise physiology. In this case she is talking about soccer practice, but she could just as easily be talking about studying for her classes. She lives her own advice, often showing up early and staying late for practice, and hitting the books to maintain her high academic standards.
A strong work ethic, a natural sense of curiosity, and a dedication to self-improvement make Kristina a star both on and off the field. Whatever the challenge, whatever the arena, Kristina pushes herself ever onward and upward.
On paper, Kristina has already accomplished a dizzying number of feats. A standout soccer player in high school, she started her freshman year with the FSU women’s soccer team and immediately made an impact. Her game-winning goal in the 2018 ACC Championship secured the program’s sixth title, and the Seminoles would go on to win the NCAA Championship that year. The year was far from a fluke: FSU won the ACC Championship in 2020 and finished second in the 2020 College Cup.
Her résumé off the field is just as impressive. She won the prestigious Elite 90 Award, which recognizes student-athletes with the highest cumulative GPA competing at any of the NCAA’s 90 championship sites. She finished her bachelor’s degree in biological science with a 4.0 and earned both a liberal studies honor and honors in the major. Her academic prowess earned her a Golden Torch award in 2020 and a spot on the All-ACC Academic Team in 2019.
Her academic performance also netted her three scholarships from the FSU College of Health and Human Sciences: the John E. and Mary L. Champion Human Sciences Endowed Undergraduate Honors Scholarship Award, the Norejane Hendrickson Award in Health & Human Sciences, and the Etta Joel scholarship.
Not Slowing Down
With all these accolades and accomplishments, it might be tempting to get complacent and relax. After all, what else does she have to prove? But as a natural competitor, Kristina looks for ways to constantly improve. However, a season-ending ACL injury her freshman year looked like it might force Kristina to slow down.
Rehabilitation after her injury was tough. “It was like going back to step one,” she says, “but having that same drive that I take into school and soccer—staying longer and putting in the extra work—I just brought those mentalities and mindsets to the recovery process.”
She somehow managed to turn even this serious setback into an opportunity. “Going through the injury really showed me that I would be interested in possibly being an orthopedic surgeon someday and doing research to figure out better ways to perform ACL surgeries to get athletes back to the field faster,” she says.
While she would eventually recover from her ACL injury, her time spent in rehabilitation made her realize just how much the topic of human science interested her. She eventually decided to apply for the master’s program in exercise physiology at the FSU College of Health and Human Sciences.
“To understand human physiology, I thought it’d be cool to start on the cellular level and get to know the cellular processes first, and then work my way up to a bigger focus on human anatomy physiology in general. After doing my undergrad, I was ready to move on to more human-related, bigger picture topics, and the FSU exercise physiology master’s program fit that perfectly.”
Practicum Makes Perfect
By continuing her education, she invests in her future, but her choice to join the exercise physiology master’s program has paid immediate returns as well. As she gains a better understanding of human physiological processes, she finds herself performing better on the field.
“In graduate school, you really get to know your professors. They’re really there to help you and figure out what your goals are and help you get to the next level in whatever it is you want to do.”
For instance, in Dr. Michael Ormsbee’s class, she learned about “the use of different fuels for energy—that’s kind of made me rethink how I choose my pregame and postgame meals.” Ahead of a game in Colorado, she spoke to Dr. Orlando Laitano for advice on playing at a higher altitude and how to acclimate to the elevation change faster. And with the program’s interdisciplinary nature, she learned about reaction times and juking from Dr. David Eccles from the sport psychology program.
“It’s been really cool to have those insights from leaders in their fields to help me out,” she says. “Dr. Ormsbee specifically brought in some really cool guest lecturers this semester.”
All in all, Kristina is making the most of her master’s program experience. “In graduate school, you really get to know your professors. They’re really there to help you and figure out what your goals are and help you get to the next level in whatever it is you want to do. They all appreciate sports and to be an athlete, it’s been cool to talk to them about sports in general and hear their research that I could apply to what I do.”
Soccer is part of Kristina’s DNA, and she has no doubt that she wants it to play some role in her future. “With soccer, there’s just always something you can be practicing, whether it’s dribbling, finishing, fitness—you can never not have something to work on, so I just love that,” she says. Like many of her teammates, she has a goal of playing at the professional level, but when her playing career eventually comes to an end, she wants to stay connected to the sport, and her master’s studies will help her do just that.
Regardless of what’s next for Kristina, the lessons she has learned on the field and in the classroom are sure to open up countless doors for her. “Soccer has taught me so many lessons and shaped me into the person I am today. All those lessons about work ethic and accountability and teamwork I think I’ll be able to use in whatever career I do in the future.”
Learn more about the exercise physiology program at the FSU College of Health and Human Science.