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College Track and Field: Former Warrior Degen competes at indoor nationals

Jenna Degen, a 2016 Brainerd High School graduate and College of St. Benedict senior, soars over a hurdle during the NCAA Division III National Indoor Track and Field Championships March 8 in Boston. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Brainerd High School graduate and College of St. Benedict senior Jenna Degen tosses a shot put during the NCAA Division III National Indoor Track and Field Championships March 8 in Boston. Submitted Photo2 / 2

What started in high school has hurdled Jenna Degen to a national level.

The College of St. Benedict senior finished tied for 14th in the pentathlon Friday, March 8 at the NCAA Division III National Indoor Track and Field Championships in Boston.

She finished with 3,202 points, tied with University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point's Briana Simonis.

It was the third nationals trip of her collegiate career for the 2015 Brainerd High School graduate.

"I was very grateful to even qualify this year because I had a stress fracture in my shin," Degen said. "I was on the line for qualifying because only the top 20 (nationally) qualify. I was sitting at 21 after the conference meet and I had kind of accepted that I was done with my indoor career.

"But then I got a call because a couple girls weren't going to be able to make it and I wound up seeded 18th . I was kind of hoping to better my personal best at nationals, but unfortunately it didn't go as planned. It was still a great experience."

Degen placed fourth as a sophomore in the pentathlon at the indoor nationals and third in heptathlon at the national outdoor meet. She suffered a labrum tear last season and missed qualifying.

Degen has one more track goal before she graduates this spring with a degree in nursing — to return to the nationals for a fourth time and compete again in the heptathlon.

"For sure I want to be on that podium one last time," She said. "I'm hungry."

The pentathlon consists of five events—the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 run—all conducted in one day.

The heptathlon is held during the outdoor season and adds a 200 dash and javelin throw to the pentathlon events.

She began the indoor nationals with a 10th-place time of 9.43 in the hurdles followed by a 12th-place finish in the high jump. She placed ninth in the shot put with a toss of 33-8 3/4 feet. She wrapped up her day with a 16th place in the long jump and a 12th-place time of 2:33.51 in the 800 run.

Degen enjoys the jumps, both long and high, the most, but it was the long jump that she struggled the most with. She scratched on her first and third attempts.

"I had a big one to start and it was barely a scratch," she said. "My coaches were almost going to look at the cameras to see if it actually was a scratch, but decided not to. There were a lot of people who did scratch during the day so I think it was kind of a fast runway. I struggled because I was holding back trying to get a good mark on the board and sometimes you're not aggressive enough when that's the case."

Degen had little time to savor her experience at the nationals. After returning from Boston, the team began outdoor season practice.

"All of the events I do in the pentathlon and heptathlon I also do individually at the conference meets so at the (indoor) conference meets, I was doing 10 events," she said. "Outdoors, I will do the 400 hurdles in addition to the heptathlon."

One of Degen's teammates is her sophomore sister Hanna Degen.

"It's been great," she said. "We've gotten so much closer. She actually never did track until she came to St. Ben's, so I've been able to help her through that and learn the ropes."

When asked to sum up her career at St. Ben's, Degen simply said "I've loved it."

"It's awesome being able to compete at the D3 level," she added. "I'm a nursing major so obviously academics come first, but my coaches have been awesome and flexible in working around my clinicals. I don't think that is always the case in other places.

"I've found a lot of success at the D3 level and been able to compete at a national level, and a lot of people can't say the same. I found my nitch with the multi and it's awesome to have the combined events. I'm not always as great at an individual event, but when I can put them all together, that's when I do well."

Degen holds St. Ben's record for both pentathlon and heptathlon and is in the top five all-time CSB marks or times in the 60 hurdles, and long and high jumps. She earned all-region honors in the pentathlon each year since her sophomore year.

In high school, Degen had four stellar years in volleyball, basketball and track. She credited her high school coaches with helping prepare her for college.

"I had great high school coaches and they set me up so well for the college level," she said. "I had four different coaches in high school and they all contributed so much help and advice. As a combined coaching staff they did so much to prepare me for the next level."