As a high school athlete at Cary-Grove, Carly Loeffel thought of herself as a one-event specialist.
Two years into college, her vision has drastically changed.
On Monday, Loeffel was named a U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association second-team All-American after finishing 15th in the heptathlon at the NCAA outdoor nationals this month in Eugene, Ore.
“I’ve stopped thinking of myself as a high jumper,” said Loeffel, a sophomore at Notre Dame.
The high jump, in fact, was Loeffel’s third-best event at nationals, where she posted a personal-best score of 5,470 points, just shy of ND’s school record of 5,509.
Her finish in Eugene also pushed Loeffel to imagine a bright future in her event.
“It really opened my eyes to the fact that I have a lot more potential than I gave myself credit for,” she said. “I’ve started thinking about the (Olympic) trials in a couple of years. That could be a goal for me.”
For the 2012 trials, the top-tier qualifying standard was 5,800 points, while the second-tier standard was 5,600, according to USA Track and Field’s website.
Though high jump was Loeffel’s love in high school, she posted better finishes at nationals in the shot put (sixth place at 41 feet, 8 inches) and long jump (ninth, 19-8).
She credits her Notre Dame teammates with training support. When she works on a specific event, Loeffel trains with that group in practice.
“They just pull me along with them,” she said.
Loeffel was especially pleased with her progress in the long jump, where one adjustment was crucial.
“I learned to plant my foot better and launch myself,” she said. “It was that one little thing.”
Loeffel also placed in the top 15 in the high jump (11th, 5-6 ˝), 800-meter run (12th, 2 minutes, 19.34 seconds) and 200 dash (14th, 24.88).
Those performances helped Loeffel beat Pittsburgh senior Elizabeth Kline, who finished 20th. Kline edged Loeffel for first place, 5,460-5,411, at the Big East Conference outdoor meet.
Loeffel expects improvements in her two lowest-placing events at nationals – javelin (23rd, 92-5) and the 100 hurdles (23rd, 14.54).
“My coach says I have the experience of a high school sophomore when it comes to the hurdles because I’d never done them before,” she said.
If Loeffel does make the 2016 Olympic trials, it would mean a return to Eugene, which will host the meet. The city’s moniker, “TrackTown USA,” suits its rabid track and field fans, Loeffel said.
“The stadium is huge and the people in Eugene are just there to watch track,” she said. “During the 200 was when I first noticed it. We came down the stretch and … the entire stands were full.”
Loeffel said she and her fellow heptathlon athletes are used to a much different crowd during their competitions.
“Usually, it’s just our parents,” she said with a laugh.
Huskers on a roll: Jacobs grad Amanda Burau was a member of Nebraska’s national championship women’s bowling team this season.
Burau, a junior who competed in one tournament for Nebraska, was part of a team that won its fourth NCAA title this spring. The NCAA has sanctioned a women’s bowling championship for only 10 years. Nebraska defeated Vanderbilt for the title in April in Canton, Mich.
Judson’s best: McHenry West grad Sarah Boyer earned first-team All-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors in softball this spring for NAIA Judson University in a historic season for the Eagles.
Judson finished third in the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament, tying the 2008 team for the best finish in school history.
Boyer (19-9) was the team’s top pitcher this season, posting a 2.52 ERA with 22 complete games and 227 strikeouts in 183 1/3 innings.
Fab Flyer: Jacobs grad Ben Albano won first-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference East Division baseball honors this spring.
The junior outfielder batted .305 and ranked second on the team in hits (54), RBIs (39) and home runs (seven). He also posted a .469 slugging percentage for the Flyers. Albano was one of four outfielders chosen for the team.
Lewis (33-18) won an at-large bid to the NCAA Midwest Regional tournament, where they posted a 2-2 record.
New homes: Harper College outside hitter Sarah House (Crystal Lake South) has committed to play volleyball this fall at D-III Lake Forest College.
Over the past two seasons, House has compiled 609 kills for the Hawks and ranked second on the team last fall with 445 digs.
Prairie Ridge grad Andraia Leja, a libero for Harper in 2011, will transfer to D-III Benedictine University this fall. Leja played last season at D-II West Florida after winning Harper’s Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2011-12.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.