Last year, Jenny Howard — now a Webster University sophomore — took home the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year in volleyball and set the women’s track record in the 100-meter dash, her favorite event. It earned her The Journal’s award for Best Female Athlete for 2011-12.
But the dual-sport athlete said this year was even better for her. Howard won the SLIAC Player of the Year for volleyball and earned first -place finishes in the 100 and 200-meter dash in the SLIAC championship/True Blue Open on Saturday, April 27 in Jacksonville, Ill.
“This year, I really focused a lot more on strength and weightlifting,” Howard said. “My mental aspect of it, like being mentally tough and in the right mindset before every game, I really focused a lot more on that this year. I think my mentality got a lot better from last year to this year.”
For volleyball in 2011, Howard ranked third in the conference with 2.91 kills per set. She matched it exactly in 2012. Yet she said the team was overall better this season. She had 262 kills this year to place her seventh in the SLIAC.
Volleyball coach Merry Graf said Howard has been an asset to the program in her two seasons as a Gorlok.
“(Howard)’s a very talented player, and she’s a very competitive player,” Graf said. “The competitiveness is what really drives her because she wants to be successful. She is what I would call a ‘stat-watcher.’ She checks her numbers after matches, wants to know where she’s at, wants to make sure she’s making positive contributions to the team at all times.”
Track and field coach Kelly Parsley said Howard’s exceptional strength is what sets her apart from her competition this year.
“Anytime you have an athlete you can count on to bring in big points, it’s always a huge help to the team,” Parsley said.
Howard said she still hopes to compete in nationals for track this season, and in the time she has left at Webster, she wants to help make the volleyball team regionally and nationally ranked.
“My mindset is that I don’t want anyone to outwork me,” Howard said. “I also attribute (this award) to my coaches and my teammates. They all push me and are really supportive. For my team, I always want to give 110 percent for them. My teammates and coaches also drive me to do better. … If I keep working hard, my future is bright.”
Runner-up: Maggie Zehner, women’s basketball
Click HERE to view The Journal’s pick for ‘Male Newcomer of the Year’