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Courtesy: Athletics Communications

Longer Distances Not Hindering Vondenkamp's Success

Release: 02/22/2011
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AMES, Iowa – Distance swimming is one of the most challenging roles to fulfill in collegiate competition. While a distance swimmer has ample opportunities to improve, the events create great physical and mental stress.

For four years, senior Jenny Vondenkamp has fulfilled that role on the Iowa State swim team and continues to as her career winds down. This week at the Big 12 Championships in Austin, Texas she will look to stamp her legacy among the all-time Cyclone distance swimmers.

Regardless of the results, Vondenkamp will go down as one of Iowa State’s finest distance swimmers, going into the conference championships ranked third in Iowa State history in the 500 (4:53.58) and 1650 free (16:50.81), sixth in the 1000 free (10:13.35) and seventh in the 200 free (1:51.14). During the dual meet season, Vondenkamp led the Cyclones in the 500 and 1650 free and ranks second on the squad in the 200 and 1000 free. She is also tied for second in event wins, collecting nine.

Vondenkamp joined the Cyclones from Elk River High School up in Minnesota. Vondenkamp first competed in the state championships her eighth-grade year and broke three school records for the Elks.

 “It was a mutual interest,” Iowa State head coach Duane Sorenson said. “Her high school coach was a former swimmer at Iowa State (Colleen Killpatrick). She talked to me about Jenny when she was a sophomore and she told us to keep an eye on her. Jenny is one of the most genuine, nice people that you will ever meet. Her personality fit with the kind of student-athlete we want to bring here.”

 “I really liked the school first, it was a beautiful campus,” Vondenkamp stated. “When I came on my recruiting trip, I really meshed well with the team goals and the team atmosphere.”

In dual meets, the distance swimmers usually swim a 1000 free immediately after the opening relay. By the time the distance swimmers have gone “down and back” 20 times and completed a proper warm down swim, it is back to the starting blocks for the 500 free.

“The challenge is coming back later in a dual meet for the 500 free,” Sorenson noted. “Learning the pain in the 500 when they are not used to it is the challenge because they use so much energy in the 1000. Then it becomes more of a mental race.”

Sorenson believes Vondenkamp has the correct mentality for the distance events. Her coach also praised the contributions Vondenkamp has had this season when more was asked of her than in the past, with Jenny swimming on Iowa State’s ‘A’ 400 free relay team all of this season.

“Jenny is a true-blooded racer, she loves to compete and give it her best,” Sorenson said. “It is still a challenge for her but she is so consistent, we know what she will do in her second race. She has also swam in the 400 free relay for us this season, putting up some of the team’s best splits in the race.”

“You have to be strong physically to finish the long races but you know it is going to hurt so you also have to have the mental capability,” Vondenkamp observed. “For me, I have improved a lot mentally this season.”

With all the hard work and dedication to the sport come the rewards, as Vondenkamp has twice been named a team captain by her peers. Sorenson sees her as the ideal person to lead the Cyclones.

“She is such a steady person and she cares about her teammates so much,” Sorenson said. “She is a fierce competitor but a nice person, she is a very sportsmanlike athlete. As far as telling the team what to do, she is also a leader. She is always a step ahead of everyone else instead of reacting to things as they happen.”

While this could be seen as a burden to some, Vondenkamp sees it as an honor and a duty.
“It means a lot to me because I know the team looks up to me,” Vondenkamp noted. “I know I represent a good leader and a hard worker to the rest of the team. I just try to exemplify that every day at practice and at meets.”

Vondenkamp scored in her three individual events at the last Big 12 Championships, finishing 10th in the 1650 free, 15th in the 200 free and 16th in the 500 free. The highlight of her career came two years ago at the Big 12 Championships, when she finished seventh in the 1650, going her career-best time of 16:50.81. She also scored points for the Cyclones in the mile as a freshman, finishing 13th. She has been a member of the 800 free relay team each year.

“We would like to see her get in the top eight of the 1650, which is probably her best event,” Sorenson stated. “We also want to get her into the scoring spots in the 200 and 500 free.”

Vondenkamp is on the same page as her coaches.

“I want to do really well. I want to get the best times of my career,” Vondenkamp said.  “I will do whatever I need to do to perform at my best.”
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