If you follow any Loyola athletics social media account — even during the COVID-19 pandemic — odds are you’ve seen the work of Kevin Gunawan, a Loyola junior and student-athlete turned videographer.
However, his journey from running with the track and field team to creating digital content for Loyola athletics hasn’t been a smooth one.
Gunawan, who’s originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota, transferred to Loyola from the University of Missouri in 2018 after the first semester of his first year. After not making the track team as a walk-on at Mizzou, he reached out directly to Loyola assistant coach Mircea Bogdan about the possibility of joining the Ramblers the next semester.
“I just decided Mizzou wasn’t the right fit for me because I wasn’t on the team and I was in the south,” Gunawan, 21, said. “I thought, ‘Why not go to a school like Loyola?’ They had a D-I program and I thought it was a perfect fit because I was interested in journalism, film and digital media.”
Unable to visit the campus because of finals week at Mizzou, Gunawan took a shot in the dark and transferred to Loyola without knowing what to expect for the spring 2018 semester.
After transferring, Gunawan went through a tryout period with the track team before joining the roster as a distance runner, which he said fulfilled his dream of being on a college Division I team.
However, he said he pushed himself too hard during training, which resulted in a herniated disk in his lower back and nerve issues throughout his lower body and limbs.
The injury persisted throughout the fall and prevented Gunawan from running at the level he expected. Although his lone appearance at the Illini Open at the University of Illinois gave him hope for a recovery before the indoor season, the pain became too much to bear when he went home for winter break.
“I decided I wanted to have some kind of future within the lifestyle sport of running,” Gunawan said. “It was time for me to stop running collegiately and that was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life.”
Gunawan said one of the hardest parts of leaving the team was no longer practicing with the people he was closest with at Loyola. Not wanting to lose those relationships, he searched for a way to stay connected with the athletics community at Loyola. Enter director of video production Austin Hansen.
Gunawan reached out to Hansen in spring 2019 about the possibility of helping to create online content, which was his other passion besides running.
Before working with the video production team, Gunawan had already been making videos and vlogs for his personal Instagram and YouTube pages, which Hansen said gave him some experience.
“[Kevin] came in with the skills to produce whatever we needed,” Hansen said. “Anything that we need on the digital front, whether it’s stuff on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, he’s been able to come through.”
Gunawan now produces all sorts of content for Loyola Athletics, ranging from social media promotions to video shoots with various teams. Through this work, he’s also been able to travel with the track and field team to create their video and social media content.
Bogdan said his continued involvement and commitment to the development of the track program hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“So many people could tell you this but [Kevin] is a guy that switched paths within the team and all of the sudden he knew where to place himself,” Bogdan said. “He combines his backgrounds so well, knowing the team and knowing how to take photos and videos. … He just loves what he does.”
Despite the current lack of sports in play, Gunawan and Hansen are still working to pump out content remotely for Rambler fans to enjoy, ranging from rewind and throwback videos to blooper reels from shoots with the student-athletes.
Because of the spread of COVID-19, the NCAA has halted all in-person recruiting, leaving coaches scrambling to find high-school recruits. To remedy this issue, Gunawan is also working on recruitment videos for Loyola teams that allow high school athletes to get a feel for the teams without visiting the campus.
“It’s my responsibility in a way to give as much as I can, and contribute as much as I can, to a culture at [Loyola] that has given me so much already,” Gunawan said. “I wouldn’t have anything I have today, relationship-wise, job-wise and experience-wise without the track and field program and the athletics department.”