She had a bright, beautiful smile and a personality to match, but former Missouri State University-West Plains Lady Grizzly Edna Chumo didn’t let that stop her from tearing up opponents on the volleyball court.
The 5-11 middle attacker from Nairobi, Kenya, exuded a competitiveness that belied her million-watt smile and lifted her teammates to a level of confidence that propelled the Lady Grizzly volleyball team to the upper echelons of junior college play.
“Edna is the most unique person I’ve ever met,” Lady Grizzly Head Coach Trish Kissiar-Knight said. “Everyone respected her so much. She was so good in spirit. She never said a harsh word, but she was still so competitive. She’s a rare person.”
A former member of the Kenyan Olympic Volleyball Team, Chumo came to the United States to pursue a dream bigger than the Olympics. She wanted to become a nurse so she could return to Kenya and set up a clinic that would provide much needed medical care to her family, friends and neighbors, and she knew playing volleyball for a collegiate team in the U.S. could help her achieve her dream.
Knight gave Chumo that opportunity at Missouri State-West Plains in 2001, and in return, Chumo gave Knight, the Lady Grizzlies and their fans some of the best volleyball performances of her life during her two-year tenure with the team. One of her most memorable performances came in the Region 16 Championship Tournament’s championship match in 2001 against the Lady Grizzlies’ arch rival, Jefferson College, when she scored four straight kills to give the Lady Grizzlies the edge in the fifth and deciding game of the match. “We were down to Jefferson and I didn’t think we’d come back,” Knight recalled. “I told (Grizzly Hall of Famer) Bea Gerevich to set Edna every time, and Edna didn’t make an error. She put everything Bea gave her to the floor.”
The Lady Grizzlies won the championship, their third straight, and went on to place fourth at the 2001 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship Tournament, dispatching defending national champion College of Southern Idaho along the way. Edna earned first-team All-Region 16 honors, first-team NJCAA All-American and first-team American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American honors for her efforts.
Chumo’s sophomore year in 2002 was just as memorable. Named a preseason NJCAA All-American, Chumo led the Lady Grizzlies to another Region 16 Championship and a second-place finish in the NJCAA national tournament, the highest placing the Lady Grizzlies had ever reached in the post-season event. Once again, she was named first-team All-Region, first-team NJCAA All-American and first-team AVCA All-American.
By the end of her Lady Grizzly career, Chumo had rewritten nearly every record in the team’s books. She had set new single season records in attacking attempts, kills, kills per game, attacking percentage, digs, and digs per game, and she established new single game individual records for solo blocks, double blocks, digs, points earned and attacking kills following her freshman season in 2001. At the end of her sophomore season, she set a new single season attacking percentage record and set career records in kills, attacking attempts, points earned, digs and attacking percentage. She is still the single season leader in kills (756 in 2001), attacking percentage (.485 in 2002), and points earned (972 in 2001), and the career leader in kills (1,455), attacking percentage (.482) and points earned (1,903).
If volleyball records weren’t enough, Chumo also was named the 2002 Homecoming Queen. “I really got a big kick seeing her get Homecoming Queen,” Knight said. “How many international kids can come in and be respected and liked so much that they are chosen Homecoming Queen? That’s just so great.”
Chumo received her Associate of Arts in General Studies degree from Missouri State-West Plains in May 2003 and transferred to Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., where she quickly became a force for the Lady Eagles volleyball team. In her first and only year with the Lady Eagles, she led the team in kills (800), attacking percentage (.483), kills per game (6.15), service reception (4.02) and blocks (64 solos, 118 assisted, 1.4 blocks per game). She also was second in digs (694, 5.34 per game). She was named the Heart of America Athletic Conference’s (HAAC) Player of the Year, the Region V Player of the year and a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) first-team All-American. She also received the athletic department’s Darla Pannier Outstanding Athlete Award in 2003-04. The Lady Eagles posted a 38-8 overall record, winning the HAAC Conference championship and placing second in the NAIA Region V tournament.
A tragic car accident before her senior season ended her competitive volleyball career, but not her dream of becoming a nurse. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in July 2007 and is now working at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., in the medical/surgical and orthopedics departments.
Chumo is married and has a three-year-old son, but she still fondly remembers her time in West Plains. “The support I received from the community and my host parents, Mike and Becky Lott, made me feel like I was at home,” she said. “Coach Knight helped me play at the best level I had ever played. My teammates, we were like sisters. I feel like West Plains is my home. Thank you very much to everyone who was part of my life there. You helped me reach my dream of becoming a nurse. I thank you so much!”