Sami Spenner's legs were a little shaky after winning the pentathlon at the Summit League championships.
But just like she did after hearing she wouldn't get a waiver from the NCAA to compete at the Division I championships, the University of Nebraska at Omaha junior told herself she had to stay strong and keep working.
So she went out and won the long jump. And she did well enough in the preliminaries of the 60-meter hurdles to advance to the finals. That was just on Sunday.
“For our team to do well, I had to do well,” she said. “That was in the back of my mind the whole weekend.”
Spenner added a triple jump title Monday and anchored the 1,600 relay to a runner-up finish that secured second place for the Mavericks in their first Summit meet.
She also placed fourth in the hurdles and high jump.
It was a tough and tiring two days, but Spenner can't wait to do it again at the Summit's outdoor championships in May. She wants to win the same events, her favorites, while chasing school records.
League titles and individual marks are all the Columbus Scotus graduate has to focus on since UNO isn't eligible to compete at the national championships while transitioning to Division I.
Spenner will be gone when that happens in 2015-16, hence the attempt at a waiver to let her compete as a one-person team.
Spenner would rank sixth in Division I in the pentathlon (4,104), tied for 11th in the triple jump (42-7½) and tied for 17th in the long jump (20-5¼) if her efforts could be included on the national charts.
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“It's pretty heartbreaking,” she said. “I tell myself it's not a reason to not try hard and get better. I have my own personal goals.”
After competing in track only as a senior at Scotus, Spenner didn't realize the Mavs' move to Division I would factor so much in her career. In fact, the multi-sport athlete originally started her college days as a volleyball player at Wayne State.
After one semester, Spenner switched schools to concentrate on a physical therapy degree. Once she arrived in Omaha, she decided to walk-on to the track team.
It was a learning experience, Spenner said, and in the process she kept getting better.
It's been a combination of genetics and the training she's done with field events coach Chris Richardson, UNO coach Steve Smith said.
“She's now a very, very highly skilled athlete,” he said.
Spenner began to blossom last spring, when she competed unattached during the outdoor season because she was redshirting. The highlight of her season was a fourth-place finish in the heptathlon at the Drake Relays. The top-three finishers were international students.
Spenner has worked her way into a full scholarship, and said that and the excellence of the exercise science program at UNO means she won't transfer to another school just so she'd have a shot at competing at the NCAA championships.
Her loyalty to the Mavs far outweighs that opportunity.
“Ultimately, I'm here to get a degree and go on with my life,” she said. “I credit how good I've gotten to my coaches. They are the reason why I'm at the level that I'm at.”
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