It took Jackie Spelts a couple of years before she understood just how valuable her time investment would be as she geared up to run distance events.
It all paid off this year.
The senior from Burwell won the Great Plains Athletic Conference cross country meet and became a two-time All-American in the sport. In track, she won the GPAC 1,500-meter and 5-kilometer races outdoors and the 3K and 5K indoor titles.
Spelts knocked two minutes off the school record for the 10,000 the first time she ever ran the race. She won the GPAC title the second time she ever ran the 5,000.
"It takes maturity and trust in her coaches to reach the levels of competition Jackie reached this year," said Nebraska Wesleyan coach Ted Bulling. "It's not easy to make the change from being a half-miler and shorter-distance running to long distance. But Jackie was great at making the change."
Spelts is the first NWU female to win the Journal Star State College Female Athlete of the Year since Kim Oden in 1989 and 1991.
The youngest of four children, Jackie is headed to New Zealand for five months of study in her major, health and fitness.
"And then I'll get back and have one more season to run with our team," said Spelts, who has a season of eligibility remaining in outdoor track. "I can't think of anything better.
Past women's winners
1983: Kari Kramme, Midland
1987: Phyllis DeBuhr, Kearney St.
1988: Laura J. Anderson, UNO
1989: Kim Oden, Wesleyan
1990: Carol Bailey, Concordia
1991: Kim Oden, Wesleyan
1992: Cindy Hays, Midland
1993: Cathy Russell, Doane
1994: Suzanne Weeder, Doane
1995: Heather Rhoadarmer, Doane
1996: Mari Maaske, Doane
1997: Amy Steffel, UNO
1998: Stephanie Schilke, Concordia
1999: Darcy Stracke, UNK
2000: April Kockrow, Doane
2001: Mary Livengood, Doane
2002: Kelly Bowen, Wesleyan
2003: Elizabeth Herbek, Hastings
2004: Rochelle Schmidt, Doane
2005: Molly Engel, Concordia
2006: Katie Kosmos, Doane
2007: Katie Kosmos, Doane
2008: Lindsay Ducey, Hastings
2009: Lindsay Ducey, Hastings
2010: Jackie Spelts, Nebraska Wesleyan