Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Forging a family

Senior Aleah Grundahl, number 33, blocks a pass against the Chicago Maroons.

Being a student athlete at the Division III level requires copious amounts of dedication, sacrifice and perseverance. 

Players do not receive athletic scholarships like Division I and II athletes do. Academics demand the same amount of priority as their sport. Time management becomes a vital component to navigating their schedule. Players decipher what goal to lock in on and carry them throughout the season. Team leaders must employ high motors, vocal authority, honest critique, and accountability to set the example for everyone else. 

Aleah Grundahl epitomized those traits while playing for UW-Whitewater women’s basketball. Not only on the court, but off it as well. During the fifth-year forward’s dominant play in the 2023-24 season, she worked full time student teaching and substitute teaching. 

“I’d go to school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. depending on if we had meetings…then I would go to practice,” Grundahl said. “That was a schedule Monday through Friday.” 

Practices lasted a grinding two and a half hours. She meticulously studied film while devising how the team needed to improve. She often lifted weights alone, exhilarated when others joined her due to missing the team lift earlier in the afternoon to attend class. 

“Coaches were good with checking in and asking if I needed anything,” Grundahl said. “Kacie (Carollo) and all of them sometimes brought me peanut butter and jelly if I didn’t have time to eat.” 

Her schedule created an unfamiliar reality for her. Time spent away from the team meant time spent away from her family. She writhed in angst knowing she missed out on team lifts. Kids and other teachers bested her on certain days at work. Pausing to relish in every crumb of downtime available to her turned pivotal in resetting her mind.  

“Sometimes it was when I’d show up to the gym – maybe getting my shoes on a little longer and getting a snack,” Grundahl said. “Knowing that it’s your last year, you gotta sink everything in.” 

Teammates noted her ability to propel herself in the face of tribulation. She exhibited grit every time she walked through the gym doors. Coaches never worried about prompting her to lead by example – she embodied the example. 

“She’s just extremely motivating for others to be around,” UW-Whitewater women’s basketball head coach Keri Carollo said. “As coaches, you want your players to have that kind of mindset. Those kinds of players are hard to find.” 

Eclipsing a player’s numbers in record books commands a tough task for those willing to pursue it. Eclipsing a player’s temperament and their legacy, however, proves even tougher. 

“Everything she’s done…I don’t think it will be repeated during my time,” Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Ryan Callahan said. “What she’s been able to do for Warhawk athletics, for the sport of basketball and for women in general is pretty, pretty special.” 

She exuded dedication and liability. Everything she set out to do came with a purpose, often spawned by her natural unselfishness. If something went down in the lives of her teammates, they consulted her about it. If they wanted to talk basketball, they talked basketball. 

“She’s extremely accountable for everything that she does,” Keri Carollo said. “She is extremely caring, willing to give all of herself and reaches out to her teammates outside of practice.” 

The care went beyond basketball. Everywhere she roamed, positivity accompanied her.  

“Learning to grow with Aleah as a person, I’ve become more comfortable being able to talk to her,” fifth year guard and Grundahl’s roommate Lunden Alexander said. “She’s a put-others-first person. Everyone knows that and I think it’s hard to not know that when being around her.” 

Grundahl bonded with younger teammates no differently. Freshman understood the magnitude of having someone like her in their lives. Older players learned from her after an increased amount of time spent with her. 

“She has always been there for me as a big sister but also as a really good friend to vent about basketball or life in general,” will-be senior guard Kacie Carollo said. “She’s very, very good at relating and being helpful without being judgmental.” 

Her personal impact on teammates did not stop there. Traditionally, coaches bestow a philosophy on players that travel with them for a lifetime. Grundahl is different though.  

“She taught me humility,” Keri Carollo said. “How humble she is is extremely impressive. The greatest thing about her is her ability to create a family.” 

Grundahl’s commitment to the program bled into the purple bleachers that packed Kachel Gymnasium with thousands of Warhawk fans over her tenure. Kids enamored over the family Grundahl helped foster. 

“I think she’s a good role model and I think little girls look up to her,” UW-Whitewater Assistant Professor of Special Education Courtney Wilt said. “I appreciate that about her as a mother – it’s all about community.”

Wilt, Grundahl’s former professor on two separate occasions, took her daughter and her daughter’s friend to the team’s Sweet 16 game against Hope College at home. 

“She (her daughter’s friend) had never been to a basketball game or even an event at the university,” Wilt said. 

That night, Grundahl and the team welcomed a new fan into the family of Warhawk women’s basketball. 

“She saved her ticket and put it on her wall at home.”


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About the Contributor
Gabe Sadoski
Gabe Sadoski, Assistant Women's Sports Editor

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