By Josh Brown
When Katie Landwehr won a state championship in cross country her senior season for Tippecanoe High School, her brother Ryan Landwehr wasn’t there to see it.
“I was already at school and had a game,” said Ryan, another Tippecanoe graduate who at the time was the backup quarterback for the Division III Rose-Hulman Fighting Engineers. “It was a real bummer, but I did get to call her after and talk to her a little.”
He made up for it this year.
They both did, really.
And what a year it was.
Ryan had a record-setting season during his senior year as Rose-Hulman’s starting quarterback and will play in the 16th Tazon de Estrellas (Bowl of the Stars) 2013 NCAA Division III All-Star Game on Dec. 21 at Tec de Monterrey University in Mexico. And Katie, a red-shirt sophomore at Michigan State, finished fifth at the Big Ten Conference Cross Country Championships and helped the Spartans win the Big Ten title, then she ran at the biggest collegiate meet in the country, the NCAA Division I Championships, and finished 51st.
“It’s been an awesome year for us both,” Katie said.
The high point of the year for Katie, who won her state title in 2010, was the Big Ten Championships at Purdue. She finished fifth place overall in a time of 21:04.4 and earned first team All-Big Ten honors, and Michigan State as a team won the conference crown.
“That was a really exciting meet,” Katie said. “The Big Ten is known all across the country. This was my first year running at it, and the first time for a lot of the girls on the team. We didn’t know what to expect. We were just pumped up. It was between us and Michigan for the title coming in, and a lot of people didn’t think we could pull it off. But we did.
“Absolutely (I was wide-eyed). I was an alternate last year, so I’d been there and seen it. I was really nervous at the start, but in the middle of the race when I was up near the front and being competitive, I knew — this is where I belong. I just knew I ran as hard as I could. I had a lot of support. A lot of my family came to watch.”
The Spartans also earned a trip to the NCAA Championship meet at Terre Haute, Ind., and Katie bettered her time in awful conditions by running a 20:54.7 and finished 51st in the entire nation.
“That was also a first experience, and the conditions were terrible,” Katie said. “It was cold, it had rained before the race so there was water and mud puddles everywhere, girls were slipping and falling during the race. It was a sloppy mess.”
Katie wasn’t the only Landwehr to be part of a conference championship team.
And a key part of it, too.
“I knew it was an open competition between me and one other guy for the starting job going into the season, so there was no guarantee,” said Ryan, who had seen limited action as a backup quarterback for Rose-Hulman in the previous three seasons. “I had a strong spring, but so did he. Still, I went into summer thinking, knowing that I was going to get the job. Because that’s the attitude you have to have.”
The rest is history — and a lot of it, too.
Ryan was 234 for 360 passing for 2,456 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he added 459 rushing yards and another 11 scores. The 234 completions, 2,456 yards and 32 total touchdowns were all school records, while the 21 passing touchdowns and 65 percent completion percentage were both second in school history. He was also named the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week four times and became the first-ever Fighting Engineer QB to be named to the Academic All-American first team.
He didn’t even realize he was in the process of accomplishing all that. The team had more important goals in mind.
“Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to anything but wins and losses,” Ryan said. “I didn’t want to know. I knew if I did, I’d be thinking about it too much. We went into the season thinking we could win the conference championship. That was all that was on my mind.”
When Rose-Hulman lost to preseason favorite Franklin early in the season, they thought it was the end of their HCAC title aspirations.
“After we went head to head with them and dropped that game, we were all disappointed,” Ryan said. “After that, it seemed like it was over. But then, after our next-to-last game, we found out in the locker room that Franklin had been upset. Coach told us, and everyone got quiet. It took a second to sink in. But then, you could see a fire ignite in everyone’s eyes. We knew we were about to do something that hadn’t been done in 25 years.”
And in the season finale against Earlham, Ryan had possibly his best game. He threw five touchdown passes — tying a single-game school record — and ran in two more, with the seven total touchdowns in a game tying another school record. Rose-Hulman finished the season 7-3, 7-1 and won its first share of the HCAC conference title for the first time since 1988.
“It was awesome. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my senior season,” Ryan said.
He got more anyway.
“Invitations to the all-star game went out early in the season, and I didn’t have any stats from last year when I was a backup,” he said. “The team ended up not coming up with a quarterback, and I attracted their attention. So now I’m going to play in the all-star game. It’s a real honor, and I’m really thankful for the chance.”
What made the season more special for both, though, was the opportunity to watch each other compete. Katie was able to go to Ryan’s first game as the starter at Kalamazoo, while Ryan was able to see Katie run both at the Big Ten and NCAA Championship meets.
“This year, to see her finish so successfully at the Big Ten meet was awesome,” Ryan said. “And having the D-I NCAA meet in my backyard in Terre Haute was awesome. And she got to come see my first game as a starter in Kalamazoo. It was a road game and my first start, so I was pretty nervous. But it was comforting knowing my family was there.”
“I used to watch him play every Friday night in high school. I got to go to one game his freshman year, but this year I got to see hm starting,” Katie said. “And it was awesome that he got to see me run. It’s just different in college. You’re competing all over the country.”
But once Ryan gets back from Mexico, there won’t be any more running around the country to see each other.
“I’m really looking forward to being home for the holidays,” Katie said.
“It’ll be nice to be home. Christmas will be the first time I’ve been home for more than a day since, well, last Christmas,” Ryan said.
And who knows? Maybe they’ll all get to watch younger brother Michael Landwehr playing for the Tippecanoe boys basketball team. Christmas is a magic time like that.
A magic end to a magic year for the Landwehr children.