By Rob Kiser
EUGENE, Ore. — Just call her Covington’s All-American girl.
Former Lady Buccs state champion Jackie Siefring earned that title Friday and Saturday in the women’s heptathlon at the NCAA Championships at historic Hayward Field.
Siefring, a junior at Akron University, racked up 5,663 points in the seven-event competition to finish fifth and earn first team All-American honors after earning second team All-American in outdoors as a sophomore and indoors as a sophomore and junior.
“I didn’t want to be second team All-American for the fourth straight time,” Siefring said with a laugh. “I just wanted to be top eight (first team All-American) — anything else was icing on the cake.”
Coming off a 12th-place finish as a sophomore at outdoors, Siefring had herself well-positioned after the opening day.
Competing in rainy conditions, she was 11th in the 100 hurdles, 13.98; 10th in the high jump, 5-5 1-4; sixth in the shot put, 39-10 3-4; and 13th in the 200, 25.39 on Friday — leaving her eighth heading into the final three events on Saturday.
“I am not much of a first dayer, I always seem to do better on the second day,” Siefring said. “I knew I was in good position.”
And that improved Saturday when she opened the day with a long jump of 20-feet and one-quarter inch, finishing fourth. She followed that with a javelin throw of 120-feet, eight inches which placed her 12th.
I had a real good long jump, but the javelin didn’t go so well,” Siefring said about her season-best long jump. “But, after the javelin, when you looked at the points, I knew I was in good position.”
It all came down to the 800, the final event.
“I was really looking at who I had to beat in the 800,” Siefring said. “I knew there was one girl in front of me that I had to beat by 30 seconds to pass. It was really about who I beat. The top 12 were all in the second heat.”
And Siefring had one strategy going into the race.
“I usually run around a 63 (second) first 400,” she said. “I always end up leading the darn thing. I decided I wasn’t going to be in the lead. When we came around, I saw the first lap was 68 and I knew I was going to have to go.”
Siefring ran a 2:16.83 to finish second in her heat and fourth overall, securing the fifth-place finish and her All-American status.
“I finished second in the heat and the girl who won couldn’t catch me (in total points),” Siefring said. “I wasn’t for sure when I crossed the finish line (where she had finished overall). When I looked back and saw how far I was in front of the girl I knew I was (All-American).
“At the end of the 800, you are so tired. You are just happy to be done. I really didn’t think a lot about it. My parents and grandparents were there which was great.”
And the sun had finally broken through for the 800.
“The first day was probably the worst, because it was raining the whole time,” Siefring said. “But, it was just a bad weekend weather wise. But, the way I looked at it was it was just water. You are just going to get wet.”
Her final point total of 5,663 was up from 5,626 a year ago and capped a big weekend for the Akron program.
“It was a good day for Jackie (Siefring) and Nikki (Manson),” Akron track and field coach Dennis Mitchell said. “Even with crazy weather and tough and competitive events, the ladies came through. It was a good overall week for the Zips with four first-team All-Americans and one second teamer.”
Siefring’s performance this spring was driven by what happened at indoor nationals, where she finished 12th after going in with much higher expectations.
“At indoors I was so disappointed,” Siefring said. “There is really nothing I can say. I just had a bad day. I was determined not to let it happen again at outdoors. I didn’t want to be second team All-American for the fourth straight time.”
She has far exceeded anything she thought would happen at Akron, despite winning state titles in the long jump and 300 hurdles and scoring 26 points at the state track meet her senior year.
“I never would have dreamed when I came to Akron that I would be an All-American,” she said. “Honestly, that never even entered my mind. I was just hoping to make it to nationals at least once before I graduated. I just didn’t see me doing something like this.”
And she is not thinking about next year too much right now.
“I just want to keep getting better every year,” Siefring said. “I have learned that putting pressure on myself doesn’t really work. I need to keep it loose and have fun. That is what works much better for me.”
And she may not be done this year yet.
Siefring could be invited to U.S. Nationals in two weeks, which includes professionals as well as college competitors.
“I have a chance (to go U.S. Nationals in a couple weeks,” Siefring said. “That is the top 18 in the country and I am ranked 15th right now (including professionals). If this was an Olympic year, it would be Olympic trials.
“It is for the World (games) this year. The top three go on to worlds. I will find out later this week if I am in. It just depends how many pros decide to do it.”
For now, she can enjoy the fact she is Covington’s “All-American” girl.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.