A perfect day for Jenny Jansen involves plenty of napping, with “One Tree Hill” reruns streaming in the background. But since fourth grade, lazy days have become less frequent for the Warrenton …
A perfect day for Jenny Jansen involves plenty of napping, with “One Tree Hill” reruns streaming in the background.
But since fourth grade, lazy days have become less frequent for the Warrenton senior, who is hoping to end her high school softball career with a second straight state championship this fall.
After quitting t-ball and picking the game back up two years later, Jansen has been a softball player ever since.
But it wasn’t until ninth grade that she believed college softball was a reality.
“My freshman year, I went to a camp at LSU and their coach pulled me aside and took me on a tour of campus,” she recalls. “That’s when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is something that can become a reality.’ That’s when I started looking around.”
Due to strict NCAA rules, Jansen had to market herself at first, which eventually played into Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s favor.
She committed to the school last summer.
“It was a long process,” she said. “I had to send out a lot of my own emails, and it was hard being 14 or so at the time and trying to talk to adults. It was really intimidating at times, and I think that is why I committed so soon.”
Even the campus visits, where recruits are often given the red carpet treatment by schools, became taxing.
After visiting SIU first, she went on a half dozen more campus trips.
“I felt like I got told the same thing by every coach on every visit,” she remembers. “It was getting old.”
So old, in fact, that she turned down visits from schools like New Mexico State, Syracuse and Minnesota before committing to the Saluki program.
That perception isn’t lost on Jansen.
Most high school athletes would love to be courted by the aforementioned schools, and would see the attention as a blessing and not a burden.
But most high school athletes aren’t courted by those schools, and wouldn’t understand the experience.
That hasn’t stopped envious players and parents from treating Jansen a little differently than the rest of her teammates growing up.
“It’s always been an issue,” Jansen says of the jealousy. “It’s just been something I’ve had to deal with since I was younger. But I think that has just made me better because I’ve always had someone trying to beat me.”
An opponent beating her on the softball field has been a rare occurrence, where she is a three-time all-state performer.
Last season she hit .581 with 42 RBIs while leading Warrenton to a 28-2 record and Class 3 state title.
In the semifinal win over Helias, she finished with three hits and a stolen base, all while playing her secondary position of shortstop.
She was a centerfielder her freshman season and hopes to return to the outfield in college.
“If I never played infield again, I would not be sad,” she says with a laugh.
She will be sad, however, after her final basketball game next spring.
She’s pretty good on the hardwood, too.
Last season she led the Warriors to a district championship while averaging 17 points per game and landing on the all-state first team.
“Last year in districts when we needed a big play, she stole the ball, made the layup and hit the foul shot that sent us to overtime,” Warrenton basketball Head Coach Greg Williams recalls. “She’s always been that kind of kid that recognizes the moment and doesn’t back down from it.”
Jansen calls Williams the best coach she has ever had.
“Williams is crazy, but he just knows so much about basketball and I respect him so much,” she said. “I’m just so glad he took over the basketball program because we wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
Jansen had the opportunity to continue her basketball career in college, with interest from NCAA Division-II schools.
Truman State University wanted her to play both sports, but the allure of Division-I softball was something she couldn’t pass up.
“I never got that competitive with basketball until high school,” she said. “I played on a select team my freshman year, but I couldn’t balance both, so I stuck with softball.”
Balancing both sports hasn’t always been easy.
She plays competitive softball each summer while attending Warrenton basketball workouts when time allows.
“Summer is always the hardest,” she says. “This past summer, I drove an hour and a half to practice in St. Louis three times a week, and then I had basketball workouts three times a week. I was exhausted all summer, but it was fun.”
She parlays that into high school softball and basketball, which runs from August until March.
The grueling summers, she says, are better than the alternative — failure.
“I’m terrible with failure,” she says. “I’m my own worst enemy after losses and it just kills me to fail. I always find something to put on myself after losses. Even after bad at-bats I beat myself up, and it’s something I’ve had to work on a lot to keep myself in the game.”
Next season will, in all likelihood, bring more failure than she is accustomed to.
The jump from high school to Division-I is tough for nearly every athlete.
She won’t immediately be the best player on the team, but she won’t be the most scrutinized, either.
And without the scrutiny that has helped her become one of the best athletes in the state, one might guess how she responds.
“I think it will be weird, but it is something I will have to deal with,” she says. “I know it’s going to take a few years, but I’m willing to put in the work and do well and hopefully become the best player on the team.”
That type of focus has helped her block the noise that can surround youth and high school sports.
“The community should embrace her and her contributions instead of maybe attack them,” Williams said. “I don’t know if anything ever really bothers her. She just kind of sees through the nonsense, and she has a good grasp of what matters and what doesn’t. She doesn’t really care what others think because she’s mature beyond her years.”
There won’t be many lazy days with Netflix in Jansen’s future.
The Warrenton softball team begins its season Friday in the Troy Leadoff Classic, and the basketball team expects to play into early spring.
“I’m looking forward to this year, and I really don’t want to leave,” Jansen said. “I’ve enjoyed my four years here, and I’m not looking forward to never putting those jerseys on again.”. Bill Barrett photo.