The Franklin & Marshall scholar-athlete profile features one Diplomat per month who personifies what it means to be an NCAA student-athlete. The F&M campus is filled with dedicated, passionate, and talented student-athletes who have interesting stories to tell – and it's our goal to let those stories be heard. To be chosen as a scholar-athlete of the month, F&M student-athletes must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and community service, or have a noteworthy story that stretches beyond the realm of athletic competition.
To view previous scholar-athletes, click here.
Running from activity to activity, each challenging semester can feel like a race for many student-athletes at Franklin & Marshall College. Fortunately for Kimberly Hilfrank, distance running is her specialty.
Perhaps that is the reason why the two-year captain for both women's cross country and track has managed the incredibly uncommon feat of taking on so many responsibilities and still being successful in the three main categories that define a Division III student-athlete: scholarship, service and sustained athletic excellence.
There is the expectation to flourish academically. Hilfrank has been on the Dean's List since her freshman year and since her first year of eligibility, there has not been a Centennial Conference (CC) Academic Honor Roll in the fall, winter or spring without her name. She also belongs to the Delphic Society, Order of Omega, a Greek honors society, and Sigma Delta Pi, a Hispanic honors society.
Next comes the social aspect. How engaged is the student-athlete around campus and in the community? Hilfrank divides her time as a student-worker for the track and field team, a weekly radio show DJ, a member of Kappa Delta sorority, president of the Panhellenic Council and a committee head for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on campus.
Community involvement. Check.
Standing out on the field of competition also plays a major role in the Division III experience. Hilfrank has frequently been one of the F&M cross-country team's top-three finishers throughout her time as a Diplomat. As a member of the track team, she has numerous gold-medal performances on her resume and has been a part of relay teams that have finished near the head of the pack during both regular-season and postseason competitions.
With cross country in the fall, and track stretching from December to May, it's easy to wonder how she has found the time to do it all.
"It definitely was not easy to create that initial balance, but I quickly learned the magic of prioritization and organization," said Hilfrank, a senior from Norfolk, Mass. "When I knew some weeks were going to be busier than others, I would utilize any free time I had to get some extra work done."
Bragging would be the natural thing to do for someone who has prospered in so many facets of collegiate life, and especially for a student-athlete who competes in predominately individual sports. However, Hilfrank's favorite memory is of a team dealing with adversity and overcoming the odds.
Heading into the 2013 Mid-East Regional Cross Country Championship, F&M was in rough shape. Five is the minimum number of runners a team has to field in order to score at the event, and due to numerous late-season injuries and illnesses, five was all the Diplomats had to compete. Most schools fielded seven runners and, therefore, had a significant scoring advantage over Hilfrank and her teammates who were healthy enough to participate. Despite the significant limitation placed on the squad, the Diplomats performed admirably, taking 23rd place out of 52 schools and finishing better than they had in previous years with full teams.
"I can honestly say that never before had I run a race in which all of my teammates truly performed to the best of their ability," stated Hilfrank, who produced a competitive time of 24.07 to place 127th out of 358 runners. "The thought of being the underdog inspired us all and I'll always have that as a fond memory of my time on the team."
In the view of head cross country coach John Stoudt, "Kim and the rest of the team adopted an 'us against the world mentality' regarding our lack of contributing depth. With no margin for error in scoring if someone had a bad race, the team held themselves accountable the rest of the season and on race day were totally invested in performing to their max potential, which they did that day,"
Hilfrank has experienced her share of impressive individual performances, as well at last season's Coach I Invite in January, she captured gold in the 1000-meter run with a time of 3:18.72, nearly two seconds ahead of the second-place runner. At the Susquehanna Invite that February, she teamed with Victoria Ngo, Mallory Reed and Rachael Weiss for a first-place showing in the 4X800 relay with a time of 10:18.35. The same group placed sixth in the distance medley at the 2014 CC Indoor Championships.
Hilfrank's success from last season has transitioned to her senior year, with a fourth-place finish in the mile (5:44.69) at the 2015 Kutztown Collegiate Invite in January and sixth-place in the same event at the Deschriver Invite at East Stroudsburg in February. Along with her development on the track, she has emerged as one of her team's prominent leaders.
"Kim has grown into an amazing leader over a very independent group of hard-working athletes," said track & field head coach Carl Schnabel. "She truly enjoys competition and has improved significantly since high school."
"She is not hesitant to speak up on the coaches' behalf, or for the benefit of the team and definitely brings a competitive spirit to both workouts and races," said Stoudt, who likens Hilfrank to a Swiss Army Knife due to her adaptability and talent to handle several events with equal success without a drop off in performance.
Characterizing Hilfrank as simply a student-athlete would not give her the full credit she deserves. When she is not competing, she is still contributing. Hilfrank has served as VP of Finance and Administration as well as the President of the Panhellenic Council, a governing body of the five sororities on F&M's campus. She also DJ's a weekly radio show on WFNM with teammate Caroline Dorey-Stein. Taking part in all of these activities has allowed her to interact with a number of people of varying interests.
"My teammates are different from my sorority sisters, who are different from my fellow members of Intervarsity, and I believe that my involvement with these organizations will help me succeed in the workforce since I am able to collaborate with a wide array of personality types," said Hilfrank.
A public health major, with a biology track and minor in hispanic cultures, Hilfrank has taken full advantage off what an elite liberal arts college has to offer.
"I chose F&M because I wanted a school where my professors would know my name and where I could walk through campus and be able to wave to people I know at any given time," said Hilfrank. "The professors care about Kimberly the person, not just Kimberly the student and are always asking how my season is going, what my goals are and how the team is."
After graduation, Hilfrank plans to attend graduate school for genetic counseling and right now is focused on finding a way to volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or hotline, a cause she feels strongly about. While she definitely plans to move on to bigger and better things, being a member of the F&M cross country and track and field teams has provided her with experiences that will last well beyond her time in Lancaster.
"What I have really learned over the past three and a half years is the value of a real teammate," said Hilfrank. "I have been inspired by the dedication and determination I see in many of my teammates, especially those who have suffered numerous injuries but worked through them."