Kerst perseveres through struggles for Iowa men’s tennis team

Iowa senior Jason Kerst may not have always made the starting tennis lineup, but he left his mark as a student leader both on and off the court.

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Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Jason Kerst hits a backhand during a men’s tennis match between Iowa and VCU on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Rams, 4-3.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter


On the tennis court, senior Jason Kerst plays long rallies with momentum shifts and ups and downs — not unlike his career as a Hawkeye.

Kerst, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been on the Iowa tennis team for four seasons but was in and out of the lineup for his first two and a half years. He began to turn it around on the court during the second half of his junior season and hasn’t looked back since.

A big part of his turnaround has come through his newfound faith, he said.

“It was my junior year that a couple of friends of mine who were student-athletes in Athletes in Action started inviting me to go to their meetings,” Kerst said. “I was able to go and start meeting other student-athletes who found their identity in Christ and their faith. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I knew that was something I wanted for myself. It’s given me an awesome new perspective on why I play tennis and why I do the things I do, why I live my life.”

In addition to his improved athletic performance, Kerst has also excelled beyond the tennis court. A two-time Iowa Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative, according to hawkeyesports.com, Kerst was elected president of the committee for 2019-20.

Kerst received one of the 2020 Robert F. Ray Faculty Representative Awards and earned the Presidential Committee on Athletics Medallion three times. He was a five-time Dean’s List honoree, a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, an International Tennis Association Scholar-Athlete, and was the Male Hawkeye of the Year recipient at the 2018 Golden Herkys.

He has also been awarded one of two Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarships available for Iowa student-athletes. Claire Graves of the Iowa soccer team earned the other scholarship.

“I had a tough time in different areas of my life my first couple of years here,” Kerst said. “I think the biggest thing is just resiliency. I’m not sure exactly how, but I managed to believe in a vision that didn’t really match my circumstances…I’ve just been grateful to be surrounded by such an awesome team such amazing support staff that invested in me and believed in me, great friends and community.”

The senior served as a University of Iowa Student Government senator and as the president of the ISAAC at the same time and said it was awesome to hold those two roles simultaneously.

“I think that’s something I’m really passionate about, making sure that student-athletes have the most well-rounded experience that they possibly can at Iowa,” Kerst said. “Holding those two roles allowed me to kind of bridge that gap from both sides and kind of expand the opportunities that student-athletes had.”

Head men’s tennis coach Ross Wilson also credits Kerst for getting his team more involved in student government.

“I think Jason’s done a really good job bringing awareness to that group,” Wilson said. “Our team has three people that are on ISAAC. You only usually get two, but we have an at-large spot. He has brought awareness to that with the guys on our team and motivated them to get involved, which I think is a really good thing.”

Kerst was set up to earn his M.B.A. at the University of South Carolina after graduation this month. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he will be back in Iowa City for one more athletic season because the NCAA granted eligibility relief to those competing in spring sports.

“I’ve just been able to develop and blossom in different areas across athletics, academics, and leadership at Iowa,” Kerst said. “I’m just grateful for this experience, and I’m excited it’s not over yet.”

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