All in the family: Student-athlete siblings reunited as Hilltoppers

Lynda Eernisse, Sports reporter

For many student athletes, venturing off to college means being apart from family and far away from home. For brother and sister Mackenzie and Ty Crittenberger, coming to Western Kentucky University meant the opposite. 

Mackenzie, a fifth year graduate student with a major in Kinesiology, plays on the women’s soccer team. Ty, a redshirt sophomore majoring in sports psychology, plays for the baseball team. The pair are originally from Lighthouse Point, Florida, but the duo took very different paths to arrive on the Hill.

Previously, Mackenzie played for the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh, North Carolina and Ty was a member of Polk State College’s baseball roster in Winter Haven, Florida. 

The process came with complications and hard decisions. For Mackenzie especially, the decision to come to WKU was one that took some time and thought.

Ty Crittenberger, Mackenzie’s brother, is happy to have a reminder of home on the Hill. “It’s nice to have a piece of home all the way out in Western Kentucky, because I didn’t have that last year,” He said. (Provided by WKU Athletics)

“I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted to do in May,” Mackenzie said. “I wanted to keep playing soccer, I thought about going to Europe to play, but kind of just the way the world is right now, that was put on hold for a little bit.”

There were two key things that ultimately solidified her decision to transfer; her father’s advice and guidance, coupled with the fact that her brother Ty was already on the hill.

“I made the decision to commit to Western because it was a place that I could show up and [have] an effect on the team in my first year, and it’s also in a super competitive conference in Conference USA,” Ty said. “I was ready to take a new path and it’s been awesome.” 

Since making the decision to call the hill their home, Mackenzie and Ty have enjoyed being able to see each other around campus and attending each other’s games.

“[Ty] had his fall game the other day, so I went to that for a little bit, and then he’s come to most of my games,” Mackenzie said. “It’s been nice.”

In an effort to be a supportive sibling, Ty has attended all but one of his older sister’s home games so far this season. 

“It’s nice to have a piece of home all the way out in Western Kentucky, because I didn’t have that last year…it’s been much nicer having my family right there,” Ty said.

Another benefit of the pair attending the same school is the ability to see family members frequently, specifically their mother, who visits almost every weekend. 

“She’s here pretty much every weekend, or whenever we have games,” Mackenzie said. 

The rest of the Crittenberger family, which includes four other siblings, is also very much involved in the world of college sports. 

Jennifer and Jack Crittenberger, the older siblings of Ty and Mackenzie, also played soccer and baseball at their respective universities. 

Both Mackenzie and Ty agree that coming from a home filled with athletes and growing up around soccer and baseball has shaped the two into the people they are today, while also serving as a way to connect their family. 

“Since day one, I have been around sports,” Mackenzie said. “That’s where a lot of my friends have come [from]. I would say a lot of our family time is based around sports, so that’s combining the two.”

For Ty, growing up around other athletes built key competitive traits in the young slugger.

“It instilled competitiveness, work ethic, responsibility,” Ty said. “It’s been really helpful growing up with so many competitive people and athletes. You also get that insight from their failures, and they kind of guide you.”

Being a student athlete comes with many difficulties and challenges, but Mackenzie and Ty both love the experiences and the paths that lead them to Western Kentucky University, where they have each found a new home within their own teams and with each other. 

Sports reporter Lynda Eernisse can be reached at [email protected]