March 23, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Elizabeth Kilborn makes success representing the Georgia Tech women’s tennis team on the court and the Dean’s List in the classroom look so easy.
But her success on the Flats hasn’t always come easy.
In fact, early in the Fall of 2009, her freshman year, she remembers simply falling flat.
“I was in Calc(ulus) 2, it was my first test ever in college and I just completely bombed it,” she recalled, with a laugh. “I remember coming to lunch that day, I was the only freshman and I was with the rest of my teammates and I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to survive this place.’ But I’ve just kind of figured it out. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of studying, you have to be disciplined. It’s been fun to be able to figure it out. It’s just as much as a challenge in the classroom as it has been on the court.”
Kilborn’s figured both out. She’s made the Dean’s List every semester from Fall 2009 through Spring 2012, was ACC All-Academic Team in 2010 and 2012 and, tying together her on-court excellence, her academic excellence and her work in the community, she’s earned a nomination for the Peach of an Athlete Award.
She’s one of 10 finalists and one of three Georgia Tech student-athletes to be nominated, joining track and field’s Perron Jones and swimming and diving’s Kate Riley. The award will be given at the 29th Annual Peach of an Athlete Role Model Banquet, being held at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, on March 26. The dinner begins at 7:00 p.m.
The Peach of an Athlete recognizes amateur and professional athletes who live or go to school in Georgia, have excelled in the classroom as well as in the community.
That would describe Elizabeth Kilborn.
“Liz came in on the tennis team and was able to learn from some very talented student-athletes and, being a local tennis player, she got to see our team when we were part of the National Championship,” said Associate Director of Athletics – SWA Theresa Wenzel. “She has been very strategic in fortifying some of our big wins. She’s also was one of two student-athletes that helped with our coach’s search when Bryan Shelton left and I would say that helped her develop her leadership skills.”
That new coach, Rodney Harmon, has been impressed with Kilborn’s leadership and the example she has set on and off the court in his first year.
“I knew that she was a very, very talented player and hits the ball pretty big. What I didn’t know, what I found out is that her work ethic is phenomenal,” said Harmon. “She is such a self-directed, hard-working young lady, who takes responsibility for preparing herself the best she can. She schedules her training, her off-court training sometimes has to be at a different time because she’s a senior and this is her last semester and she’s a 4.0 Biology major. You just see the amount of work she put in on court, how hard she works in practice, how well she does in school. She’s just a phenomenal example for the rest of our team.”
Kilborn has played No. 1 in singles and doubles this season, but was winning big matches long before Harmon’s arrival. She went 4-0 in the 2010 ACC Tournament, as Tech took home the title, and she’s played a role in Tech reaching two Sweet 16s in her first three seasons. This season, she clinched a dramatic 4-3 upset over No. 16 Florida State. The win, over Daneika Borthwick, the 37th-ranked player in the nation, was the 80th singles win of her career, making Kilborn, ranked No. 65 at the time, the 11th Yellow Jacket to reach 80.
“Georgia Tech has had many incredible players. For me to be up there and hit that number is exciting,” she said. “I’m not really that into the numbers. I just like to go out and get better every day, not waste any time and not waste any days but it’s an honor to be mentioned with them.”
Kilborn credits Amanda McDowell, the lone senior on the team during her freshman campaign, as a major influence on her.
“Amanda was an incredible leader, both on and off the court. For me to be able to have a year on the team with her and to learn from her, I took a lot away from that year,” she recalled. “She was hurt and had a lot of challenges that year. That just spoke more about her character. I’m just so thankful for the way that she impacted me. If I can lead this team and the freshmen and the younger players on the team, and impact them half as much as she did me I’ll feel like I’ve done a good job.”
Kilborn has pleased Harmon.
“She’s done a lot for our team,” said Harmon, pointing out a team-bonding sleepover Kilborn organized at her family’s cabin. “She has definitely paved the way for Megan [Kurey] and the freshmen to really become adjusted.”
Kilborn has shown similar initiative as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), with which she’s participated since her sophomore year.
“It’s a group of student-athletes who really care about Georgia Tech and really want to see things improve,” she said. “We’re passionate about it so it’s a fun group to be a part of.”
Kilborn has been especially passionate, initiating the Women’s Tennis Team’s annual visit to the City of Refuge to serve dinner to those in need, and has been a part of numerous community service events, including, but not limited to, the Michael Isenhour Toy Drive, the Georgia Special Olympics, Atlanta Girls On The Run, ACC-wide Beautification Day (cleaning up Bright Futures Academy in West Atlanta). She even went to Morocco to help build a school.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you do it all?’ I don’t know,” she said, with a laugh. “My day is literally scheduled out down to like ten minutes, starting from seven in the morning to eight or nine at night, when I get back to my dorm. But that’s just how I’m wired. I love being busy.
“There are certain things I know I’ve got to fit in and, obviously, school and tennis are a priority,” she added. “But you’re in the middle of the city of Atlanta and just a mile off campus there are people that need a lot of help. You can’t just overlook it and get caught up in your life here. Obviously, I’ve been given so much to have the opportunity to be here. I think it’s important to make sure that you don’t keep your eyes closed and don’t forget things that are happening right around you.”
Tickets for the 29th Annual Peach of an Athlete Role Model Banquet sponsored by the Boys Scouts of America, are $250 per person, $2,000 per table of eight. For more information, call (770)-956-3177.