Spencer jumps ahead to nationals

Senior Erika Spencer will compete in the Track and Field Nationals held in Chicago, Ill., later this spring. She qualified for the Nationals after breaking the school record by clearing 5’ 5” in the high jump. / photo by Stephanie R. Osborne
Senior Erika Spencer will compete in the Track and Field Nationals held in Chicago, Ill., later this spring. She qualified for the Nationals after breaking the school record by clearing 5’ 5” in the high jump. / photo by Stephanie R. Osborne

by Raechel Fittante
Editorial Director

When asked about track prodigy senior Erika Spencer, head track coach Pat Widolff had some choice words of praise. “She’s about the greatest person I’ve ever come across,” he said. “She cares about everybody.”

Relatively soft spoken and friendly in demeanor, Spencer is rather calm considering the accomplishment of her latest feat, breaking the University’s record for the high jump and being the first track athlete this year to qualify for the Nationals.

“I don’t think I have ever really jumped this far,” said Spencer of her new collegiate and personal high jump record, 5’5”. “I’m really excited about that. I just hope to stay strong for the rest of the season.”

The 21 year-old Chino, Calif., native who has ran track for eight years is no stranger to breaking records, however, considering she still holds the high jump record of 5’4” for her former high school, Don Antonio Lugo.

Aside from the high jump as her main event, Spencer has thrown the javelin for three years as well. She describes the schedule of her workload as “really hard with homework and track.”

Living in Stu-Han residence hall dorms for her “first year out of the house,” Spencer is very involved in campus activities. Besides track and academics, she is also an active member of Iota Delta sorority as well as being an educator of Students Together Educating Peers (STEP).

“Erika’s awesome,” said STEP leader Tracy Germann, who asked Spencer to be in the program last year on the Tecate, Mexico, spring break trip. “She’s great, she’s dependable and she’s got a great sense of humor.”

Widolff indicated that ULV tried to recruit Spencer four years ago when she was to first start college, but she waited and transferred to La Verne after two years at Citrus Junior College.

“I feel really lucky to be graduating in four years even though I came from a two-year,” said Spencer of her college career. Although she will have her bachelor’s degree in May of this year, Spencer, who has aspirations to become an elementary school teacher, plans to immediately “start the credential program and work part-time as a sub.”

“Erika’s going to be a great teacher,” said Widolff as he continued to rave about Spencer, assessing, “She is a super girl. One of the reasons I coach is to be around people like her.”

Spencer, who ran cross-country to stay in shape for track, describes health as a very important issue in her life. Although this is the last collegiate season in which she will be able to compete, Spencer plans to continue running in open track meets in which a person of any age can compete.

“I hope to keep in shape. I eat right and work out every day. When I don’t I feel sluggish,” she said of her vigorous lifestyle which compels her to practice track every day and lift weights numerous times a week. “When I get older I still want to run.”

About the nationals which will take place in Chicago in May, Spencer said, “It will be like completing a lifelong goal, once I get to go. It’s finally my opportunity.” Although she is qualified for the Nationals, Spencer is keeping it in mind that the qualification is still provisional, and it has given her more incentive to do even better.

“I’m still going to work at it,” she said of her desire to jump 5’6” and a half which will qualify her for an automatic spot at the Nationals, a qualification no athlete from ULV has yet achieved considering, Spencer just broke the school’s record with her jump of 5’5”.

“It’s there,” she said, hopefully. “I can get it; it’s in reaching level.”

Spencer attributes much of her success this season to assistant coach Will Darity, who came to ULV this year.

“He [Darity] is a really encouraging guy,” she said, smiling. “Cres Gonzalez [athletic field maintenance worker] once told me the only way I will succeed is if I believe in my coach. I believe in Will and he believes in me.”

Keeping her excitement in perspective for her participation in the Nationals that are just a few months away, Spencer said, “I’ve never been stronger. This is the best season I’ve ever had and I’m pretty excited about it. I just hope I stay in one piece.”

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