FIRST GENERATION BISON
The Klos’ family car finally broke down in Fargo this October. Henry (Hank) and Kathy (Stoll) Klos have been driving up to NDSU almost every weekend since the start of volleyball season. The 400-mile journey from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to watch their daughter play volleyball for the Bison is a sacrifice they enjoy making, even if that means putting nearly 1,000 miles on their car to see their kids for a weekend.
Fargo has been a second home to Hank and Kathy going back to the 1980s. Both arrived at the beginning of the decade to play college sports and pursue a higher education.
What transpired over the course of the next five years was your typical romance story. Hank, who played on the football team, would see Kathy, a volleyball player for Donna Palivec’s Bison, in the dining halls around campus. That eventually led to the two dating throughout college.
Hank grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He came to NDSU in the fall of 1980 and joined Don Morton’s football team. Hank played linebacker originally but was transitioned to running back after his freshman season. He dealt with injuries before cracking into the rotation in the backfield from 1982-84.
While Hank competed for national championships, his girlfriend Kathy was experiencing success in the volleyball gym. The Bison were 153-55 during Kathy’s four years on the court. Kathy led the team her senior year in 1983 with 97 total blocks as a middle hitter.
Although the two were in the same college town, their sports schedules kept them apart for most of the fall. Kathy remembers only going to three of Hank’s football games. But that was the norm, said Kathy.
“We were on the road a lot for volleyball at that time,” Kathy said. “She (Coach Palivec) wanted us to travel a lot and be exposed to good volleyball. We traveled to Texas and Missouri and we were all over the place.”
Hank and Kathy studied drastically different subjects in college. Hank admits he was on a longer path toward graduation, but eventually, he received his degree in construction engineering. Kathy pursued education and is now the principal at Viroqua Area High School in Wisconsin. Hank is now enjoying “semi-retirement” after nearly 10 years as the facilities director at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
SPAWNING A NEW GENERATION
Hank and Kathy have three kids. The oldest, Alex, ran track and field at Minnesota-Duluth. But Aron and Abbi ended up at NDSU. Aron is a redshirt senior hurdler on the track and field team. Abbi is a redshirt sophomore on the volleyball team.
The Klos family made history when Abbi chose to become a Bison in 2015. Kathy and Abbi are the first mother-daughter duo to play volleyball at NDSU.
“Growing up, my pajama shirt was an NDSU shirt,” said Abbi, who then admitted it was an easy decision to come to NDSU. “I remember coming for a volleyball camp my eighth-grade year and touring the campus. The town is a little bit like where I’m from. That was comfortable for me.”
Hank and Kathy said they tried not to influence their kids’ decision to come to NDSU, but after years of stories about their experiences and friends in Fargo, it clicked for Aron and Abbi that NDSU was the perfect place.
“I’m a Wisconsin kid and I had a great experience when I was up here so I guess that was part of why we encouraged our kids to get involved in that,” Hank said. “I keep telling them North Dakota is great people.”
“It was definitely on my radar from a young age,” Aron said. “I went to a couple Bison games in middle school. I was well aware, but I wasn’t really thinking about it then. But then at the end of my high school career and running track, it definitely came on my radar with school searching and what I wanted to do as a major. Growing up in Wisconsin, a lot of friends, and there’s a lot of influence with other schools in Wisconsin, but it was still ‘NDSU’ in the back of my head.”
Aron sent head track coach Don Larson his times and was asked to come to Fargo for an official visit. He was offered a scholarship and he could study industrial engineering. Aron has been applying for jobs in the Twin Cities and will graduate in May.
THE BISON EXPERIENCE
Abbi and the Bison volleyball team were picked to finish fifth in the Summit League this season. It could be argued that it was a fair assessment for a team that had lost eight seniors in 2016 and was led by an interim head coach. But the Bison culture had a different plan.
By the middle of October, the Bison were riding a nine-set win streak and were 10 games above .500. NDSU was smashing expectations.
“We took matters into our own hands and we’re doing well,” Abbi said. “Jen (Lopez) is a big factor in our success. The atmosphere has definitely changed—energy every day in the gym and during games. I think people have noticed it has amped up a lot.”
As the final indoor and outdoor seasons of track approach for Aron, he’s already seen the Bison culture in full effect. NDSU has won five Summit League championships since Aron’s arrival in 2013. Individually, he’s earned the title of All-Summit League performer in the outdoor 400-meter hurdles for three consecutive years. His goal this season is to break the school’s record and return to the NCAA West Preliminary meet.
Beyond whatever he does on the track this season, Aron already knows he’s discovered and grown relationships with people at NDSU that will last a lifetime.
“Right when I stepped on campus here, I met these guys and my roommates, and I knew right away I would fit in nicely and make great friends,” Aron said. “The coaches have high expectations. I can tell that if you’re here, you mean business and you’re here to be a great athlete and student.”
“That’s a big part of what we tell them,” Hank said. “It might not be Big Ten, but I think it affords you the opportunity to be involved in something and be in pretty respected programs. You get a good education and the culture up here is pretty cool stuff. It’s just that experience that not every student-athlete has.”
Hank and Kathy will continue making trips to Fargo after they get their car out of the shop. And after the volleyball season, they will travel to Aron’s track meets to witness the end of his NDSU career.
The Klos family is a part of the fabric of what the Bison culture has always been. Through sacrifice, six and a half hour car rides and a mechanic’s bill, the Klos family has truly embodied what it means to be a Bison Family.