Prairie High School alumnus wins national heptathlon championship

Sebastien Rubino / [email protected]

Prairie High School alumnus Valerie Schmidt won the NAIA National Heptathlon Championship on May 24 at her college at Corban University in Salem, Oregon.

Schmidt, a junior, went through many hardships in preparation for the event, but came out on top. With plans to get married this year, her championship title was the icing on the cake.

“It was pretty good, (but) it was a lot,” Schmidt said. “It was kind of an emotional win. There were a lot of things leading up to this behind the scenes, as there is with everyone, but more than in the past.

Schmidt fell ill in the fall with COVID-19, which meant she couldn’t train or practice as much as she normally would. She said her living situation was also less than ideal, she had an abscess in her tonsils that needed to be removed, along with her wisdom teeth, and she also injured her knee in May. from last year.

“During the fall, one of my teammates let me stay in her dorm because of my poor sleep quality, which I was grateful for because if I didn’t have that, things would have been even worse” , she said.

Schmidt noted how difficult the heptathlon was for her. Due to her medical issues, she said her goal for the year was to have fun.

“(Nationals) came along and I kept saying ‘keep having fun, keep having fun’, and it was so hard because I wanted to be really competitive,” she said. “I was really discouraged from the first event because I didn’t run the way I wanted to, because in my mind, to score 5,000 points, I had to run what I ran (in hurdles) at the conference, which was a 14.57, instead of a 14.72, which I ran (at nationals).

Schmidt surprised herself with her performances in the rest of the events, as she set three personal bests with a long jump of 18.5 feet and a javelin throw at 126 feet 7 inches. She also finished the 800 meters in a time of 2:23.94, earning her 5,158 points overall.

“When I was running around the track, I heard so many people calling out to me, even people from other schools,” she recalled. “I’m glad I did some work on the 800 yards that Coach (Todd) Bos gave me pre-conference and post-conference because it gave me some confidence in my abilities because normally I’m pretty shy about the 800.”

Schmidt’s personal best for the 800 meters surprised her the most.

“At the finish line, a rule that I had for me was never made after the 800 because you can’t get up,” she said. “It’s so true, but I broke it this time because I had no (energy) left.”

When she turned to see her time on the board, she realized she had achieved her goal for the 800 meters.

“I asked ‘did I win? Did I beat her enough? I started sobbing because all the work I put in and the mental state I was in for nationals, I didn’t know how to feel, so I started sobbing,” Schmidt said. “My parents were crying, everyone was crying, and I just tried not to get emotional.”

Schmidt said she plans to major in agricultural business and hopes to get a master’s degree in business administration.

Martha K. Merrill