Prairie Ridge junior Natasha Schaffer finished third in the Class 3A triple jump at the IHSA Girls Track and Field State Meet, jumping a career-best 38 feet, 10 inches. That, along with her long and triple jump titles at the McHenry County Meet and Fox Valley Conference Meet earned Schaffer the title of Northwest Herald Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year, voted on by the sports staff.
Schaffer taking third place at state was not surprising, although her route to that medal was remarkable. In the preliminaries, Schaffer scratched twice and squeaked in with the final qualifying spot in the 12-competitor field.
In the finals, she landed her best jump ever on her final attempt, vaulting from 12th to third place. Schaffer’s previous best jump came at the county meet this season, where she went 38-6 1/2 to break her own meet record.
What sports moment in the world was so big that you’ll always remember what you were doing at the time?
Schaffer: My family will actually never let it go that I was sleeping when the Cubs won the World Series, so I’ll always remember that.
What would you do for a Klondike bar?
Schaffer: Ice cream is one of my weaknesses, so I would do just about anything for it. That and chocolate I can never get enough of.
What would your soap opera name be (your middle name and the street you live on)?
Schaffer: Lynn Country.
What’s your favorite wild animal?
Schaffer: Giraffes are such funny animals to watch, and they are so tall it amazes me.
What celebrity would you most like to hang with for a day?
Schaffer: Thomas Rhett, hands down.
What are three movies you can watch over and over?
Schaffer: I can always watch “Hairspray,” my all-time favorite movie, and I actually used “You Can’t Stop the Beat" as my floor music when I did gymnastics. “When the Game Stands Tall” always gives me chills when I watch it. And “Cinderella” because she’s my favorite princess, and the real-life version is amazing.
What scares you?
Schaffer: I do not like heights. Being up so high is terrifying.
Which of your teammates inspires you?
Schaffer: Sam Fisher inspires me because she always works so hard. Every workout she is pushing herself. I’ve known her for a long time, and she has always supported me and believed in me when sometimes I didn’t even believe in myself.
What musical act would you most like to see this summer?
Schaffer: Dierks Bentley. My twin sister (Katarina) and I are seeing him this summer.
Which of your meets this year will you remember the most?
Schaffer: The state meet. I had two drastically different days. I went from being so disappointed in myself for not jumping like I knew I could, and thinking I didn’t even make finals, to showing my jumping abilities and moving from 12th place to third. I remember after my last jump I ran over to coach (Delmar) Dade and jumped up and hugged him. I was crying, and then when (Huntley freshman) Daryn Davis jumped and got her personal best (for sixth place) I ran over to her. I was so happy for her. It was a really good meet.
What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you in competition?
Schaffer: Before big meets, I’ll usually bet my coach food. So it’s pretty funny when he comes over after a big meet with lots of food for me.
If you could hop in the DeLorean with Doc Brown and Marty McFly, what athletic contest would you want to see?
Schaffer: Something I would have loved to see was the women’s 400 meters at the Olympics last summer when Shaunae Miller (from the Bahamas) beat Allyson Felix (U.S.) by diving across the finish line. It was such a controversial event, it would have been cool to see that in person.
How did you come up with the color pink for your compression leg sleeves?
Schaffer: I got really bad shin splints after trying cross country my freshman year, and by the time it got to track season it was really hard to jump with my shins aching. Toward the end of the season I decided I needed shin sleeves, and my mom made a mad dash to get them. Pink was actually the only color left. Now, I don’t have shin splints anymore, but they have become my good-luck charm.
What song is on your iPod that no one would think is there?
Schaffer: Many people would be surprised that I’m a huge Maroon 5 fan.
What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
Schaffer: This is a weird one, but I really hate wet paper. It really bothers me when someone touches paper when their hands are wet.
Who is your favorite teacher?
Schaffer: Coach Glen Pecoraro, who teaches P.E. and is our baseball coach. Even though I never had him as a coach, I would be in the weight room with the baseball team in the offseason, and listening to him talk was a huge motivator. He also always made a point to stop me and ask how track was going. Actually, some words of wisdom he gave his baseball team became my motto for the season: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
What’s your favorite cereal?
Schaffer: Chocolate Special K.
What is something you’d like to change about your sport?
Schaffer: I wish all meets were two-day meets. That way athletes could do running and field events without rushing between the two.
Which superhero power would you most like to have?
Schaffer: Being invisible. That would be so cool.
What do you enjoy most about competing in sports?
Schaffer: I really like how much of a stress reliever it has become. No matter how my day was at school or how my grades were, I could always count on going down to the track and losing myself in jumping.