Former Prairie High School student Valerie Schmidt won the NAIA National Heptathlon Championship on May 24 at her college of 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 icing on the cake.
“It felt pretty great, (but) it was a lot,” Schmidt said. “It was kind of an emotional win. There was a lot that led up to it behind the scenes, as there is with everyone, but more so than I had in the past.”
Schmidt got sick in the fall with COVID-19, which meant she couldn’t work out or train as much as she normally would. She said her living situation was also less than ideal, she had an abscess in her tonsils that had to be removed, along with her wisdom teeth, and she also injured her knee in May of last year.
“During the fall, one of my teammates let me stay in her dorm room because of how bad my sleep was, which I was grateful for because if I didn’t have that, things would’ve been even worse,” she said.
Schmidt noted how difficult the heptathlon was for her. Due to her medical drawbacks, she said her goal for the year was to have fun.
“(The Nationals) came around and I just kept saying ‘keep having fun, keep having fun,’ and that was so difficult because I was wanting to be really competitive,” she said. “I was really discouraged even from the first event because I didn’t run like I wanted to, since in my mind, in order to make 5,000 points, I needed to run what I ran (in hurdles) at the conference, which was a 14.57, instead of a 14.72, which was what I ran (at nationals).”
Schmidt surprised herself with her performances in the rest of the events, as she made three personal records with a long jump of 18 and a half feet, and a javelin throw at 126 feet, 7 inches. She also completed the 800-meter dash in a time of 2:23.94, which resulted in 5,158 total points.
“When I was running around the track, I heard so many people calling my name, even people from other schools,” she recalled. “I’m glad I had done some 800-meter work that coach (Todd) Bos gave me before the conference and after conference, because that gave me some confidence in my abilities, because normally I’m pretty shy about the 800.”
Schmidt’s personal record for the 800-meter dash surprised her the most.
“At the finish line, a rule I had for myself was never lay down after the 800 because you will not be able to get back up,” she said. “It’s so true, but I broke it this time because I had zero (energy) left.”
When she rolled over to see her time on the board, she realized she hit her goal for the 800-meter dash.
“I asked ‘did I win? Did I beat her by enough?’ I started sobbing because all the work that I put in and the mental state that I had been in for nationals, I didn’t know how to feel, so I just started sobbing,” Schmidt said. “My parents were crying, everybody was crying, and I just tried not to be emotional.”
Schmidt said she plans to major in agriculture business and hopes to obtain a master’s degree in business administration.
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