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As far as debuts go, Saturday's Graduate Classic was a pretty solid start for Lara Omerzu's Nebraska track and field career.

The Husker freshman won the women's high jump at the Devaney Sports Center, clearing 5 feet, 10½ inches to edge out teammate Petra Luteran.

But consider that performance from the standpoint that Omerzu just returned to Nebraska last week from her native Slovenia for the start of spring semester.

"I was struggling when I came here, everything's changed," Omerzu said. "It's been a big change for me, but now I'm getting used to everything new."

Omerzu has some impressive international credentials. She was 12th in the high jump at the 2016 IAAF World U-20 Championships and her personal best in the event is 6-1¼.

So what brought her to Nebraska? Omerzu's answer was definitive: Husker assistant coach Dusty Jonas, an eight-time All-America high jumper at Nebraska and a former Olympian.

The connection was actually made in part through former Husker Marusa Cernjul, whom Jonas still coaches and who is also Slovenian, and the Slovenia Olympic staff also helped open some doors.

Cernjul qualified for the 2016 Olympics and the 2017 World Championships and has a personal best jump of 6-4. That's a height, Jonas said, Omerzu wants to reach.

"I really see a lot of potential in her," Jonas said. "We've worked on some things that are, no pun intended but, foreign concepts. So it's going to take her some time to develop but I really think over time, she's going to do really well."

Jonas was equally impressed with Omerzu's first collegiate performance, less than one week after returning from thousands of miles away.

"To come back, less than a week from when she got back here, it's pretty impressive," Jonas said. "She did a really nice job."

Omerzu was also happy with her performance. With it being the first meet and just getting back on campus, she didn't think she could've gone higher on Saturday.

"But next week, maybe," she added.

For now though, Omerzu continues to settle in and adjust to life in Nebraska. She said the food ("It's just different") and the culture ("People here are so friendly") have been the biggest changes from home.

(Full disclaimer: The Journal Star failed to ask Omerzu her thoughts on Runzas or any potential thoughts on cinnamon rolls and chili. We apologize for the oversight.)

But there was been one delightful culinary discovery.

"Sweet potato," Omerzu said with a grin.

Huskers win seven field event titles on final day: The Husker high jumpers had a good day overall, too. Landon Bartel cleared 7-3 for a new PR, which also gave him the early season Big Ten lead and is fourth in the nation. NU's Grant Anderson was second.

Nebraska claimed 14 titles total Saturday to close out its first weekend of competition. Antoine Lloyd won the men's 60-meter hurdles, with Crete graduate Luke Siedhoff just behind in second, and Jasmine Barge won the women's 60 hurdles.

Two-time All-American Kaiwan Culmer won the men's triple jump and Angela Mercurio made it a sweep with the women's triple jump title. Tyler Loontjer won the men's seeded pole vault, freshman Maddie Holland was the top collegiate finisher in the women's seeded pole vault, and Lincoln Northeast graduate Toni Tupper won the women's shot put.

Chelsey Jones and Kierra Griggs went 1-2 in the women's 200, while the Huskers also swept both distance medley relays and both 4x400 relays.

Nebraska hosts the Mark Colligan Memorial on Jan. 20.

Reach the writer at or 402-473-2646. On Twitter @ClintRobus.


Digital sports editor

Clint Robus is the digital and assistant sports editor at the Journal Star.

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