Tracy Jander had a birthday to remember Tuesday.
Moments before her classmates sang “Happy Birthday” to the Lorena senior in unison in the school cafeteria, the Leopards’ versatile track star confirmed her collegiate future by signing her letter of intent with Duke University.
“I’m super excited, and it’s on my birthday, so it was even more exciting,” Jander said. “And everyone was here, so I’m excited.”
A decorated career in a variety of track events has opened up the door for Jander to take her athleticism from the small Central Texas city of just under 2,000 to one of the nation’s most prestigious universities in both sports and academics.
The Blue Devils finished fifth of 15 teams in this season’s ACC Indoor Championships in February, then placed 21st in the NCAA Championships last month. They’ll compete in the ACC Outdoor Championships in May.
“I love my coach there, and I’m so excited to be coached by her,” Jander said of Blue Devils head coach Jan Ogilvie, who oversees the team’s high jumpers. “I’m really excited for the other athletes and to just be part of program that big.”
Jander competes in field events, both hurdles races and is part of Lorena’s school-record 4x400-meter relay team, but her accomplishments in the high jump are what caught Duke’s attention. She’s a four-time district champion in the event and has finished as high as fourth at the state meet.
She was a crucial part of Lorena’s second straight district title on April 14, winning four events — the high jump, the triple jump and both hurdles events. She accounted for 44 of the Leopards’ 173 points, a quarter of her team’s final scoring.
She has also been a Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State selection, and has competed in the Texas Relays.
“I was awful at it when I started it,” Jander said. “And then I got a lot better, and then freshman year I started realizing I could probably get really good at this and go far. I just kept working at it. It’s always been a dream of mine.
“I’ve always had to work extra hard, because we don’t have a huge program that’s really focused on track. So I’ve had to put in the extra time to get better on my own. So I’m really excited to be able to continue that self-driven personality at Duke, and have the facilities to get that much better.”
Jander’s track success was only half of the process that led up to Tuesday’s signing. Even an athletic scholarship to Duke still warrants top-tier achievements in the classroom.
She chose the Blue Devils over the Ivy League’s Cornell, as well as smaller schools in Texas. She plans to major in Marine Biology.
“I’ve always been a very academically-driven person, so I was looking for a great school that would get me into a great career path,” Jander said. “…I wanted to be out of state, so it was far, but not too cold. I was looking for a good student-athlete program, and they have one of the best.”
The 2016 high school track season concludes with the state meet from May 12-14 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
University’s Cruz, Guerrera sign soccer scholarships
University continued its soccer pipeline to college programs with a pair of recent signings.
On the boys’ side, University midfielder Humberto Cruz signed with Crowder College, a junior college located in Neosho, Missouri. Cruz tallied 20 goals and 15 assists for the Trojans this year as a senior, and was described by head coach Mike Chapman as the “heart and soul” of the team.
Also, University girls forward Danielle Guerrera signed with Hill College. Guerrera, an all-district standout, joins a Hill program that earned a No. 11 national ranking last season.
Robinson softball gets national nod.
Opponents are having a tough time figuring out how to the beat the Robinson softball team, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
With the regular season wrapping up, the Rockettes remain without a loss on the season, which has earned them a No. 21 spot in Maxpreps’ Xcellent 25 rankings released Tuesday.
Robinson (27-0-1) is one of five Texas teams included in the poll, with fellow Class 4A team La Grange leading them at No. 6. Los Alamitos (Calif.) holds the top spot.
The Rockettes are ranked second among 4A teams in the most recent TGCA state poll, behind La Grange.