By Nick Beaulieu, Contributor
Sami Spenner of the UNO women’s track team was named the Summit League Woman
Athlete of the week last week for the third time in a row. It’s also the fourth time Spenner has received the award this year.
It’s a surprising feat, until one learns she almost qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials last summer and is one of the best athletes in all of Division I Track.
Spenner’s continued success this season, after what she accomplished last year, has proven
to many just how exceptional of an athlete she truly is.
“She’s a tough competitor, a highly motivated athlete and she’s really gifted and talented.
She’s picking up the events,” head track coach Steve Smith said.
Spenner is a multi talented athlete, competing in the heptathlon and pentathlon, which involve running, throwing and jumping events. Spenner continually beats her personal bests and, this season especially, has been breaking school records.
Last year as a sophomore, Spenner competed unattached in the heptathlon at the Drake Relays. Her score of 5,593 points was good enough for fourth-place, and the top finish for an American born athlete in the event.
Spenner finished just 28 points behind Makeba Alcide, the SEC’ defending heptathlon champion.
It was just her second full year of competing in the event and already, Spenner was just seven points away from qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“It was obvious in watching her run or jump or whatever, that she was talented. Now how
far would she go and how quickly, you couldn’t have predicted that. But then she kept
having breakthroughs: jumping higher, running faster, picking up the technique of all the
different events she has to do,” Smith said.
However, like last season, Spenner is ineligible to qualify or compete at the indoor or outdor national championships due to UNO’s reclassification to Division I. Were she eligible, Spenner’s pentathlon score from the Jack Jennet Invitational at Northern Iowa on Jan. 25 would rank as the top score in the conference and the fifth best in the country.
Thus far, no contact has been made to the NCAA to get Spenner a waiver. The request would have to be made from the UNO Athletics compliance department or The Summit League.
Waivers have been given out before, but they’ve normally been awarded to athletes who
compete at a school under probation who weren’t part of the program that committed the violation..
But despite her continued success each weekend, Smith says the sky is the limit.
“There’s still plenty of room to improve. The hurdles for her are still a very young event,
a very new event. She’s never hurdled before,” Smith said. “She’s also got the capability
of getting a little stronger and throwing the shot put a little farther. She’s still got some
upside, there’s no doubt about it.”
The remarkable aspect of Spenner is how she’s managed to still break records following last years heptathlon performance. On January 18. at the Nebraska Wesleyan Invite Spenner set a new school record in the long jump with a mark of 20-02 ½.
That mark broke the record set by Foluso Makinde in 2005 by two inches It was also the best mark in the conference this season. A week before, at the Dordt College Indoor Invite on Jan. 12, she set a personal record in the shot put with a distance of 35-08 ½, more than four feet farther than her previous mark.
Although she’ll miss out on the national championships, Smith and Assistant Coach Chris Richardson are taking Spenner to the U.S. Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque, N.M
“In order to succeed at the heptathlon you have to be talented in a lot of different ways,” Smith said. “How far can she really go? As a sophomore to score 5,593 at that young of an age is
really good, I mean really good.”