News with Natalie

The Review recently sat down with co-interim Athletic Director Natalie Winkelfoos to talk about basketball, choosing a new athletic director and Oberlin’s track and field success.

Ariel Lewis

In addition to your responsibilities as co-interim director of athletics, you also have your own position to fill. What’s your official title, and what capacities does the job entail?

My official title prior to the co-interim stuff is Associate Athletics Director for Development and Alumni Affairs, and I’m also the senior woman administrator. My main function for the department is to make fundraising efforts through the Heisman Club — our athletics booster club. They help alleviate the financial stress of paying for some equipment, professional development and the end–of–the–year banquet we hold for our senior athletes. Also, if a team wins a championship, [the club] will provide funding for a team jacket. Things that enhance athletics — that’s what the Heisman Club does. My job is to work with the club and other alumni organizations to build support for our current athletics programs, which includes fundraising, hosting events and overseeing publications related to athletics. As senior woman administrator, I’m responsible for making sure our department is compliant with Title IX. I started out here in 2005, right out of grad school, as the assistant women’s basketball coach. I coached two years and then became an assistant athletic director of marketing and promotions. So I’ve kind of done a little of everything.

So what do you think of our current women’s basketball team then?

I love our current women’s basketball team. I think [Head Coach] Kerry Jenkins, and Jody Burrows, his assistant, are doing a fantastic job with the women. They go out there and compete every single night. It’s amazing to watch them, because if you look at the benches we’re outnumbered, but we aren’t outnumbered in heart.

I assume you played basketball growing up — did you play any other sports?

I did. I was also a softball player. Funny enough, I was actually recruited to play Division I softball, but I got a little bored. When you’re on a team in high school that has a really good pitcher, you don’t get the ball hit to you very much. Then my high school basketball career picked up. I found a little more joy in that. Somebody actually told me that I could never play college basketball because I’m short, so I guess that kind of stuck in my mind — like, “I’ll show you” — and so I chose Division III, went to Baldwin–Wallace College and played women’s basketball.

Are you a fan of any particular professional sports or teams?

I’m not a huge fan of professional sports. I root more for college athletics, like right now I’m getting geared up for March Madness — you know, college basketball. I love Stanford women’s basketball. It has nothing to do with Joe Karlgaard — I loved Stanford before Joe — but I’m super excited for them and looking forward to them beating UConn again.

What does the timeline look like for putting in a new athletics director, and how can students play a role in the selection process?

The deadline passed for submitting an application, so we have our pool of candidates. [The search committee] is going to review résumés, and then hopefully we’ll be able to bring some candidates to campus before spring break. That will be an opportunity for student-athletes to meet with the potential athletic directors and ask questions. The students will be able to get a feel for the candidates, and also the candidates will get a feel for who we are.

I know the department is planning on bringing OBfit back this semester. Are there any other programs in the works geared toward students or community members?

Absolutely. March 3 we’re bringing in a speaker geared towards our varsity student-athletes who is going to talk about eating to compete. How to fuel for games, nutrition guides, eating disorders — he’s going to tackle all those kinds of things. In the spring there will be specific promotions of our spring sports targeted towards community members. Commencement weekend is always an exciting time in the athletics department. We host our senior athlete award luncheon, we hold a golf outing, which is a lot of fun, and then we’re doing a reception in the north lobby, which is kind of a hang out, meet–the–staff kind of thing. We’re also doing a silent auction along with that. The softball team has been soliciting for items — we have everything from Broadway tickets to gift bags from local merchants — so that’s going to be pretty exciting.

Recently women’s cross-country was presented with its second straight conference banner, and currently our track and field program has been breaking records left and right. Is there something in the water? What do you think has contributed to the longstanding success of these programs?

I really think we have the right person leading those teams. Ray Appenheimer is fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Ray and the rest of his staff. It’s a combination of hard work and having the right people on the bus with you — that’s how you get to a championship.