By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Jaclyn Mohlmann had no intention of returning to Shenandoah University after she finished up her undergraduate studies in the spring of 2013.
Mohlmann, who transferred from Lynchburg College to SU following her sophomore year, took up cross country and track and field with Shenandoah when she arrived in Winchester for the fall semester in 2011.
Though Mohlmann still had two years of athletic eligibility left after last season (she didn't compete during her two years at Lynchburg), she just couldn't see herself pursuing a master's degree in order to continue competing athletically for SU.
That is, until she heard from Hornets track and field head coach Andy Marrocco that she had narrowly missed qualifying for the 2013 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the heptathlon event.
"I was even sitting at my graduation ceremony saying there was no way I was coming back," Mohlmann recalled on Tuesday afternoon. "Six days later, I'm sitting at my cousin's house down [Interstate] 81 in Fishersville ... [Marrocco] texted me and says 'You got bumped even farther down the list, there's pretty much no way you'll go [to the NCAA Outdoor Championships].' And it took me about 10 seconds to decide to go check out the master's programs here. I knew I was coming back after that."
Mohlmann, driven by the desire to reach this year's track and field national championships, returned to Shenandoah this past fall for her junior season of athletic eligibility while working towards a master's in business administration.
She was forced to miss the fall cross country season in order to retain her eligibility for the track and field season, and Mohlmann had to work out individually from last June all the way up to the start of track and field practice in early December. But that only fueled Mohlmann's drive.
All of her work came to fruition last Thursday at the North Central Final Qualifier in Naperville, Ill., when Mohlmann became the first Shenandoah athlete to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships with a second-place finish in the pentathlon event.
"All the workouts, all the training was by myself. I think the only thing I was allowed to do was weight training with the team. That was probably the hardest thing I had to do was train by myself for eight months," Mohlmann said of her offseason training. "Coming into this, I had more drive than I did last year because all of that hard work was building up to this season, so I knew I had to come out and kill it."
Mohlmann, who holds numerous SU track and field records, continued to shine this season for the Hornets, as she won the Bomber Invitational at Ithaca (N.Y.) College in mid-February and earned a handful of all-Old Dominion Athletic Conference honors in the pentathlon event at the ODAC Indoor Championships on March 2.
But it wasn't until the North Central Final Qualifier -- Mohlmann's last chance at qualifying for the national indoor meet -- that she finally earned a spot in the NCAA Indoor Championships, which will be held Friday at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb. The official qualifying list, which consists of 17 women in the pentathlon event, was announced on Sunday.
Mohlmann finished with a school record 3,338 points (which converts to 3,360 points for NCAA ranking purposes) in the pentathlon in last Thursday's meet, during which she won the both the 800 meters (2:23.59) and high jump (1.61 meters, a school record). Mohlmann also set a new school record in the long jump (5.00 meters) and ran a personal-best 9.56 seconds in the 60-meter high hurdles. She also threw for a distance of 8.95 meters in the shot put.
"At the time she was 13th. There were two meets after that and she got bumped down to 16th, but once all was said and done and they announced the list there were two girls in front of her that are doing other events [at the national championships]," Marrocco said. "So she's 14th going into the national championships, and that's where we're at right now."
Mohlmann, who truly shines in the heptathlon during the outdoor track and field season, said she has focused intently on what is required to be a successful track athlete, and she has opted to avoid late-night parties and other such events that generally exist in the life of a "typical college student."
But Marrocco said Mohlmann is also just naturally gifted.
"She has, obviously, the genetic ability," Marrocco said. "You either have the genes or you don't. But with her, she has the good genes and she has the genetic ability in the 800 and the high hurdles and the high jump. When it comes to the shot put and the long jump, they're two of her weaker events, but she's so strong in the other three that it kind of makes up for it."
Mohlmann plans to complete one final workout at SU to "fine-tune some minor details" in each of her five events on Wednesday morning before heading to Nebraska later in the day. Once there, she said she will focus on sticking to a proper diet and taking some practice runs on the unfamiliar banked track that will serve as the venue for the 800-meter race.
Mohlmann and Marrocco both have their sights set on a top-eight finish this weekend, which would earn Mohlmann All-American honors, but Marrocco also said it's a good opportunity to prepare for a possible trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in a few months.
"This is her first time at the big dance. I know there is going to be an added element of uncertainty with her as far as what to expect once she gets out there. But I think she's going to get out there and do fine and get the butterflies out this round and re-qualify for outdoor in the heptathlon," Marrocco said. "At that point it's going to be all business. She's going to be out there once already with this indoor championship. She's going to know what it's all about, get out there for outdoor and really hammer it home."
No matter what happens this weekend, Mohlmann -- who says she feels no pressure going into this weekend's championships -- has already accomplished her most important goal.
"Having my family proud of me is the most important thing," Mohlmann said. "My parents support me all the way, 100 percent every day no matter what, and when they say that they're proud of me, that's it. And I know that they would be super proud of me if I did well."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD