Athletes of Agriculture

From animal science to agribusiness to natural resources management, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) has never seen a shortage of diverse interests and talents. Among these CAFES students are a select group who excel in more than just the agricultural field: they are also Cal Poly athletes representing a variety of sports from beach volleyball to soccer.

For some, balancing the hands-on work of an agricultural major and the time needed to invest in collegiate level sports is a challenge, while others see the combination as natural and overlapping. Regardless of which sport or major they partake in, there is no doubt these students represent the diversity of CAFES well.

Meet a few of Cal Poly’s CAFES finest athletes!


Kirby Ruback


Year in school: Sophomore

Major: Wine and viticulture – business concentration

Hometown: Orange County, CA

  1. What sport do you play? 

Track and field – heptathlon (includes seven events: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin, and 800-meter run).

  1. How long have you been competing in track and field and what got you into it? 

This is the sixth year of my track career. I began my freshman year of high school, starting in the jumping events and pole vault. I was looking for a sport, I was a gymnast all my life, but was looking for something I could compete in at my high school. Thought all the jumping would be a good transition!

  1. What is your favorite memory competing? 

My favorite memories overall have been the rides to and from meets. The feeling of excitement on the way there, both nervous and looking forward to what you get to contribute to your team that day.  And then the satisfying feeling of exhaustion on the way back, knowing you gave it your all, or if not, what you can learn from the day. Even though track is an individual sport, it is the times like these that pull everyone together and give us that feeling that we’re all in it together.

  1. What made you choose an agricultural major? 

Looking at the curriculums, the agriculture majors looked especially handson, and very different than what I had already learned in high school. Also, we are not used to doing much sitting as athletes, and I was looking for a major, as well as a future career, that would keep me on my feet and constantly working. And I couldn’t imagine being outdoors and working in a more beautiful place than San Luis Obispo.

  1. How do you balance playing a collegiate sport while attending school? 

Having practice schedules to keep up with has always kept me more structured and on top of my work. Knowing that I only have a few hours free between practices and lifting motivates me to get my studying done in between those times and to work more efficiently. Being surrounded by other athletes with hard working attitudes also drives me to work harder and smarter. When I’m outside at practice, school work is the last thing on my mind, so getting to think about other things for a big portion of the day then really helps me focus when I have to sit down for class or homework.

  1. What has been your favorite Cal Poly memory thus far? 

My favorite memory was being here the week of my sisters’ graduation last year. Just seeing what it all comes down to, the real-world ready tight knit group of graduates receiving their diplomas, showed me what all I have to look forward to and to cherish every moment of it throughout my years here.  Also, we got to have our parents and grandparents up here for the occasion, and it always makes me appreciate San Luis Obispo when I get to show off my favorite beach spots, restaurants and wineries to visitors.

  1. What do you plan to do in the future? Will it include track and field or agriculture? 

Ideally I’ll be working somewhere between San Luis Obispo and Sonoma as a sales manager for a winery. I am still open to so many paths for careers, but since I am so passionate about the food and spirits industry, as well as athletics, I am sure I will end up in a job that involves one of those.

  1. Has what you have learned in your major impacted your sports career at all? Vice versa? 

I’ve learned that experience is the best teacher. In the classroom, agriculture, and athletics, you will have failures and successes and you will never know how to make your next attempt better until you have experienced both. One of my enology professors taught me something that has stuck with me, about no matter how much you plan and calculate to get that “perfect” wine, in the end it is all in the hands of nature. Similar can be said in a sports career – your competition, poor weather conditions, and injuries are always there to blindside you. Just have to try your best and know that’s all you can do!


Elise KreigoffIMG_4772

Year in School: Senior

Major: Agricultural Communication

Hometown: Clovis, CA

  1. What sport do you play? 

Soccer – Forward 

  1. For how long have you played soccer and what got you into? 

I’ve been playing soccer since I was a kid, not sure what got started, but probably my mom. I was a shy kid, so she probably wanted me to get involved in something. I don’t think she realized how far that decision would take me in life.

  1. What is your favorite memory playing that sport? 

Too many to count! 

  1. What made you choose an agricultural major? 

I came to Cal Poly as a biological sciences major. It wasn’t the right fit, so I began to look into different majors and I came across agricultural communication. This major had a balance of ag classes and journalism classes. My first quarter into my new major, I knew Ag Coms was what I wanted to study. I’m from the Central Valley, so many modern day issues effect my community.  I got to learn and explore these problems, and one day I’ll be a part of the solution.

  1. How do you balance playing a collegiate sport while attending school? 

Time management. Time management. Time management. You become an expert at finding more time in a day to get all necessary tasks done. Cal Poly challenges athletes in more ways than one. We miss class, we deal with proctored tests and assignments, and most importantly we push ourselves to compete academically. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it. We represent more than just ourselves as student athletes. There is more at stake because we influence more people than we think.

  1. What do you plan to do in the future? Will it include soccer or agriculture? 

The future is up in the air. As a senior, I think other seniors understand this feeling. I know I’ll be playing soccer until my legs fall off, but I also see myself working in the ag industry. We need more famers and individuals in this industry that understand how to fix these problems.

  1. Has what you have learned in your major impacted your sports career at all? Vice versa? 

My classmates are some of the most hard working and honest individuals. They pushed me to be more than just an athlete. The department heads, Dr. Vernon, Dr. Kellogg– they understood my needs and helped me find ways to become the athlete and student I am today. Too many memories and lessons to delve into. I’m just happy I got the experience I did as an ag major and soccer player


Shannon Fouts IMG_0582

Year in School: Junior

Major: Recreation, parks and tourism administration; concentration in sport management

Hometown: Sisters, Oregon

  1. What sport do you play? Position? 

Indoor and beach volleyball. In indoor, I’m a setter and in beach we play with partners so there are no defined positions, but we have to be able to perform all of the skills in the game (passing, setting, hitting, etc.).

  1. How long have you played and what got you into volleyball? 

I’ve been playing volleyball since I was 9-years-old. I first started at a summer camp held at my elementary school and played for club teams starting in 5th grade all the way up through my senior year of high school. My older sister played volleyball in high school and college, so I grew up always in a gym watching her. She was my main inspiration when I first started and as I continued playing through high school.  

  1. What is your favorite memory playing volleyball? 

My favorite memory playing volleyball would definitely be my freshman season playing beach at Cal Poly. It was the inaugural season for beach volleyball at Cal Poly and it was such an amazing experience to be a part of a new sport. Now that it is officially an NCAA championship sport, it has been awesome to see the sport grow and I am so excited to play these next two years! 

  1. What made you choose a major in CAFES? 

I chose an agricultural major because I was first drawn to outdoor recreation when I applied to Cal Poly. Back in my hometown I was very involved in rock climbing, rafting, and hiking. Once I arrived at Cal Poly and learned more about the RPTA major, I knew that my passion in life was sports.  I wanted to create life-enhancing experiences for people through sports programs and being an RPTA major makes that possible.

  1. How do you balance playing a collegiate sport while attending school? 

Balancing two collegiate sports and school requires a lot of time management, organization and a level head. I make sure to have schoolwork be my top priority and get my work done ahead of time so I can focus on volleyball when I’m on the court or in the weight room. Although it can be stressful and exhausting, I would not want my college experience to be any different. Being a student-athlete is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done and I’m proud to be a Cal Poly Mustang!

  1. What has been your favorite Cal Poly memory thus far? 

I don’t think I could ever pick just one memory from Cal Poly as my favorite, there are too many! However, if I had to choose it would probably have to be the opportunities I’ve had working with Special Olympics SLO. Through RPTA coursework, we are required to have 1,000 hours of community service and I was connected to Special Olympics SLO through a class last winter. I’ve been volunteer-coaching basketball for the last two seasons and it has been so amazing to see the impact that sports have on those athletes.

  1. What do you plan to do in the future? Will it include volleyball or agriculture? 

In the future, I plan on working for either a collegiate or professional sport organization within their community relations department. I would love to be able to develop community outreach programs for youth that help them develop confidence, skills, and relationships through sports. Through RPTA I have learned about the incredible impact that our field has on lives and I look to positively affect communities through sport.

  1. Has what you’ve learned in your major impacted your sports career at all? Vice versa? 

In RPTA, we are taught the importance of intrinsic motivation and how that creates happy and fulfilling lives for people. I would definitely attest to the fact that I now try to look at every opportunity I have to play volleyball as something to cherish. I’ve been able to appreciate playing volleyball more by remembering that I play it because it is my passion and I love it, which has made it a much more rewarding experience. I have also valued my teammates more, who have become my closest friends and are the people that inspire me the most to be the best athlete I can be.


Simon Boehme

Roster picture

Year in school: Sophomore

MajorRecreation, parks and tourism administration; concentration in sport management

Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark

  1. What sport do you play? Position?

Soccer – Goalkeeper 

  1. How long have you played soccer? 

Since I was four-years-old. 

  1. What is your favorite memory playing soccer? 

Watching FC Copenhagen vs. FC Barcelona playing in Champions’ League. 

  1. What made you choose a major in CAFES? 

I think that sport management relates to a lot of the things that I want to pursue in life, and I hope to be involved in sports in some form or way for as long as possible. 

  1. How do you balance playing a collegiate sport while attending school? 

It takes a lot of discipline. I personally start every quarter by writing down all my homework and test dates so I can make sure that they do not conflict with games and travel days. Our coaches and advisors are also excellent at encouraging good time-management habits. 

  1. What has been your favorite Cal Poly memory thus far? 

Beating [UC Santa Barbara] at home and then having the crowd rush the field. 

  1. What do you plan to do in the future? Will it include your sport/agriculture? 

I think that my dream is to play professional soccer, but my aspiration is to pursue a career in marketing and advertising

  1. Has what you’ve learned in your major impacted your sports career at all? Vice versa? 

I think that playing a college sport while studying sport management obviously has some common themes and it only makes the material more relatable and interesting. Looking at what my major has taught me, I think that it has shown me what happens behind the scene and all the hard work that is being put in prior to the games, practices and press conferences.


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