Teen flexes more than athletic strength

By Lisa Haefs | For The Compass | August 24, 2016

Faith keeps Colin Koss strong following his mother’s tragic death

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]NEVA — Colin Koss was having the best of years. In an instant, it became the worst.

Koss, 18, a member of St. Wencelaus Parish in Neva, was swimming and running his way toward the record books. He was months away from graduating near the  top of his class at Antigo High School and nearing his goal of attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison to begin a collegiate swimming career and enroll in the pre-physician’s assistant program.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Colin Koss (Lisa Haefs | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Colin Koss (Lisa Haefs | For The Compass)

Then, on March 22, his mother, 53-year-old Michelle Koss, was suddenly gone. An accomplished athlete and perhaps her son’s most avid supporter, she was killed when her bicycle was struck by a vehicle on a rural Langlade County road.

Such as incident has the potential to shake anyone’s faith. For Koss, it made it stronger.

“It made me forget any misgivings I may have had about the church,” Koss, a soft-spoken young man, says. “I accept that through the love of Christ, she is with me. And while it has been very hard, I know she is now somewhere much better.”

Koss was born into a devout — and very competitive — family, who were “rock solid in their faith.”

As a child, he admits that the Sunday church-going was a hassle, “an interruption to my morning.” That changed when he became acquainted with a young priest, Fr. William Brunner, who was assigned to several parishes in the area.

“He connected with me,” Koss says. “He sparked my faith. He made it become a fire, not just a little flame.”

While his faith was being fanned, so were his athletic endeavors, driven in part by his family’s competitive nature. He was running, swimming and playing at a young age.

“As soon as I was able to walk, my parents had me doing stuff outdoors,” he said. “The focus was always on being healthy.”

He started running cross-country in seventh grade, winning one race, and by eighth grade realized what it would take to become a premier athlete.

“That’s when the competitive drive really started,” he said.

As a freshman, Koss won a couple races in cross-country, completed in one- and two-mile races in track and earned his first of four state berths in swimming.

“From then on, I wanted to do it again and again,” he says. “I knew that through practice, I could be really good.”

As a sophomore, Koss earned  a state swimming berth in the 50-freestyle, just missing in  track. The next year, he made it to state in all three disciplines.

As a senior, Koss blazed through cross-country, qualifying for state. In swimming, he competed at state in both the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, setting two new conference records. In track he set a conference record in the 100-meter run, set a new personal best and took eighth at state.

Throughout the athletic challenges, his faith has always remained in the forefront, he says.

“After Fr. Brunner left, I became rock-solid for others,” he says, explaining that after relying on the priest for so long, it was time to let other people rely on him. “I became the lifeline for others.”

That has carried through to his work with various church groups and parish projects. And it was key when dealing with his mother’s death, a time when he found himself comforting others as much as being consoled by them.

“I was trying to be strong,” he says, recalling the tremendous outpouring of family and friends and community members who attended the wake and funeral. “I knew other people missed her too. Someone had to be strong.”

The day his mother died, the young man was competing — as usual — at a track meet, taking first place. Michelle likely planned to head to the field on what was a glorious early spring afternoon, but never made it.

“She really balanced my family out,” Koss says. “You never really realize what someone does in your life until they are gone, the kind gestures you do for one another. … It has been weird not having her to come home to.”

At UW-Madison, Koss says he will be “surrounded by excellence” and pushed to new limits. He hopes that drives him to new heights, and he knows his mother will be watching over him every step of the way.

“Others have lost family members and I hope I can be there to help them,” he says. “I try to show them that they will someday share their time together again in heaven. … I know she is there.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Colin Koss
Parish: St. Wencelaus, Neva
Age: 18
Favorite saint: Michael
Words to live by: “Earthly goals are important, but our true goal is to join Christ in heaven.”

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