Two concussions in basketball caused Jaelynn Griess to reassess her future in high school athletics.
As a freshman starter on the varsity team at Lincoln North Star, she was involved in a collision in a game against Omaha Central that resulted in hitting her head on the floor. The impact left her woozy. Not wanting to come out of the game, she said she was OK and managed to finish the contest.
The following season, an elbow to the head in a game against Omaha Westside led to a trip to Children’s Hospital. It spelled an end to her season, and as it turned out, to her high school basketball career.
With two mild concussions in her first two years of high school basketball, the three-sport athlete decided to focus on volleyball and track. The latter activity has become part of her college plans. The 400- and 800-meter specialist plans to run track in college. As of early January, she had narrowed her choices to the University of South Dakota, Wichita State University, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She plans to major in physical therapy.
Sara Domeier, who coaches sprinters for the North Star girls track program, says this year’s Star City Sports Youth Athlete of the Year in the Team Sports category has a never-give-up attitude, positive spirit, and is the kind of role model who will likely come back someday as a North Star alumna and share her experiences.
“I have watched her fight through emotional pain to give up a loved sport (basketball) to have the most success possible in another (track), one of which she has chosen to pursue a college scholarship,” Domeier said in her nomination letter.
Domeier, whom Jaelynn describes as her No. 1 mentor, pushes her to be the best runner she can be, she said. “I’d say she’s been the most inspirational person I’ve had in my four years at North Star because she works on me and ‘gets’ on me. She came up with a winter workout program for me that involves running 4-to-5 miles, climbing some hills and running some 200s, to increase my endurance.”
Jaelynn becomes the second North Star student-athlete in three years to receive the Star City Sports Youth Athlete Award in the Team Sports category, presented as part of the Girls & Women in Sports & Fitness recognition program. All-Stater Kim Bailey, the 2011 honoree, played several years ago alongside the promising underclassman on the volleyball and basketball courts.
“Kim really took me under her wing, made me feel welcome, and was very helpful,” said Jaelynn, who looks back at her high school sports career and says her proudest moment was being named an opening-game starter as a freshman on her high school basketball team.
Kim Bailey went on to earn 12 varsity letters at North Star -- four each in volleyball, basketball and track -- en route to becoming one of the few North Star athletes in the school’s 10-year history to reach the dozen-letter plateau.
Jaelynn is on course to finish her high school career with 10 -- four in volleyball, two in basketball, and what is likely to be four in track. Her high school volleyball career included rewriting five school records, earning Super-State recognition, and in her senior year, getting a chance to play alongside her youngster sister, Justine, a North Star freshman.
Kristi Nelson-Hitz, head volleyball coach at North Star, also nominated her four-year varsity starter and team captain for the award, noting that the All-Conference and All-Academic selection now holds five volleyball records at LNS: serving percentage in a career, digs in a career, and most-kills records for a match, season and career.
Jaelynn is also a three-time state track meet qualifier, placing fourth in the Class A 800-meter run as a freshman and more recently as a junior last spring.
In the classroom, she carries a 4.23 GPA and is in the top 3% of her class while taking a heavy schedule of Advanced Placement coursework. She also finds time to volunteer at Matt Talbot Kitchen and the Center for People in Need, and for Bright Lights. The experencies at Matt Talbot and CFPIN created a lasting impression on the student volunteer and First-Plymouth Church member.
“People take for granted what they have,” she observed, “but when you see people at these agencies, you realize how blessed you really are.”