Q&A: Elizabeth Schaefer discusses her success on the track

With her parents and both brothers playing collegiate athletics, it only made sense that Elizabeth Schaefer would continue down the same path. She attended Stevens High School in Rapid City, South Dakota, and was a standout in basketball, volleyball, and track. After winning state titles in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles in high school, she was recruited to Augustana to continue her hurdling career. That summer after graduation, she “randomly” decided to compete in a multi-event competition and ended up placed third nationally. She became the NSIC Champion in the pentathlon less than a year later.

When did you start competing in multi-events?

“In the summer between high school graduation and starting at Augustana, I was training with Scott Benson who is the head track coach at St. Thomas More High School. He said to me one day, ‘You’re pretty athletic. You should try out multi-events.’ Over the next few weeks, I started doing things like throwing shot puts and javelins for the first time. By the end of the summer, I just kept advancing and advancing, and I eventually placed third at the [National Junior Olympic Championships]. It all seemed to happen pretty fast!”

Coming into your first year at college, you had the reigning Division II pentathlon national champion Olivia Montez Brown to learn from. What was that like?

“Having Olivia there was amazing. She was literally the best person in the country for me to learn from. I’m always trying to find the patterns in things, especially patterns I can see.  I’m taking Organic Chemistry right now, and it’s almost the same as when I practice. I watch people who are better than me or how they do things differently. Watching Olivia practice and compete made me such a better athlete.”

What is your favorite competition event?

“Hurdling is always where I feel most comfortable, but I’ve lately really taken a liking to high jump.”

What about your least favorite?

“Oh my gosh, I hate the 800-meter run. I always think it’s not going to be that bad, but it’s actually awful every single time.”

Can you tell me about what happened at the indoor championship last year in Birmingham, Ala?

“There were five of us that had qualified for the meet. We had just finished practicing at the facility with all of the other athletes, and we left to shower and get ready for dinner. The next thing we hear is “everything’s canceled.” I just remember everyone being so quiet and not knowing what to say. We were in disbelief.”

After being sent home, what did the off-season look like for you?

“It was a weird time where we didn’t know if there was going to be an outdoor season. And honestly, I had a lot of doubts about whether we would compete this year. Whenever I do anything, I have the end-goal in mind. It was really hard to train for things you knew were probably going to have canceled.”

What was competing in your first collegiate national meet like?

“Honestly, I was so nervous. And while the nerves did get to me a little bit and I didn’t do quite as well as I would have liked, my goal is definitely to get back at another national meet. The whole experience was unreal.”

What’s it like being a student-athlete at a school like Augustana?

“Getting pushed academically and athletically was honestly exactly what I was looking for in college. At times I definitely do spread myself thin. The professors, though, really make it worth it.”

What is one thing people may not know about multi-events?

“The vibe is totally different from other sports. At the national meet, all of the girls that were competing against me and I were laughing and taking pictures together. Now we all follow each other on Instagram. It’s such a positive environment, and I love being a part of it.”

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