Track keeps exchange student close to home
Maike Pieper remembers where she was when she was notified of her qualification to the KU Relays.
Sitting in computer class during first block, Pieper, a German foreign exchange student attending Mill Valley High, checked her computer to see who qualified in the 100-meter hurdles for this weekend's relays in Lawrence.
And her reaction when her name appeared on the list?
"Huh? what? me?
"I did not expect the honor, so I didn't know what to say," Pieper says with a laugh.
Pieper will run in the preliminaries for the 100-meter hurdle event Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The event is just one of nine events Mill Valley athletes have qualified for.
Hailing from Celle, a small town near Hanover, Pieper is enjoying her stay in the United State and running track and field is making her stay more worthwhile.
"I like to experience something new and be open to everything," she said. "I say go and see what you can make of it. It's totally different than in Germany, but I like it."
Her focus this weekend will be at Memorial Stadium, where she hopes to improve on her 15.8 second time in the hurdles.
"I think I could finish in the middle, which is around my time. I don't know if I can keep it up this year," she said.
Since joining the Jaguar squad, Pieper has already recorded a personal best in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 7 feet, 3 inches.
In Germany, athletics are not available at school, but rather through outside clubs. Meets are traditionally held on weekends.
"It's not as a team," Pieper said on the difference of running for a club. "It's more of an 'on your own' sport."
The sport is held year-round. In the winter, more of the athletes' focus is toward technique. Winter meets are held indoors on a 200-meter track, while the outdoor season runs from late April to October.
Track runs deep in Pieper's family, as she follows her father and grandfather in running track. The sport has been a part of her life since the age of 5.
"I grew up with track," Pieper said. "(My family) kind of forced me to do it, but I really like it."
Pieper keeps her family, more importantly, her dad, informed on the progress she makes by sending results by e-mail or telephone.
"My dad is really interested. He's like 'I don't care about anything else. Tell me about track.' He really wants me to succeed, because he enjoys it so much," she said.
With Regionals and State meets slated near the end of the school year, Pieper is looking to compete in both meets in hopes for her parents to see her perform in America.
"I'm trying to get there," she said. "I want them to see me run, so I'm working hard to get there."
The Jaguars' track and field squad cancelled its trip to the Baker Relays on April 10, due to severe weather.
Mill Valley will be in action Thursday, participating in the Louisburg Invitational.
The KU Relays will take place in Lawrence on Friday and Saturday.
Several teammates will join Pieper in the presigious tournament, including: Dominique Burgin, long jump, 100-meter, triple jump; Jason Andrews, triple jump; Mindy DeGroot, high jump; Cody Patacek, high jump; Trinity Wright , pole vault and Griffin Lee, 1,600-meter.