Catching some big air: Hayfield softball player moonlights as an elite long jumper

Published 8:57 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2019

HAYFIELD — One of the best high school long jumpers in Minnesota spends most of her afternoons behind the plate in catcher’s gear for the Hayfield softball team.

Jenna Jacobsen, a Hayfield sophomore, has already served as the catcher and backbone of two of the last four consecutive state qualifying Viking softball teams, but this spring she she’s pushing herself even harder. Jacobsen gave track and field a shot as a secondary sport and last week she came within six inches of matching Hayfield’s school record in the long jump as she jumped a distance of 16 feet.

The jump came after Jacobsen ran to the track in Hayfield from the softball diamond after going one-for-three in a 13-8 softball win over Blooming Prairie.

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“It’s a challenge, but it’s really fun being able to push yourself in both sports. Trying something new has really opened up my perspective on a lot of things,” Jacobsen said. “I don’t want to let anybody down.”

Hayfield sophomore softball player Jenna Jacobsen has competed in the long jump at a few meets for the Viking track and field team this season. Jacobsen was just six inches away from the Hayfield school record in the long jump last week. Rocky Hulne/

Jacobsen, who also runs in the 4 x 400-meter relay team, has only been able to compete in a handful of track and field meets this season as softball is her primary spring sport. But she’s made some big jumps already. Her jump of 16-feet would have been good for an 11th place finish at the recent Hamline Elite Meet, which includes Class AA athletes and Jacobsen also reached a distance of 16-10 on a scratch jump at an indoor meet earlier this season.

Her success hasn’t come by accident. Jacobsen has spent her mornings before school boxing and lifting weights with Brad Heydt and she’s spent her evenings at softball practice and catching up on homework.

“I have been writing down everything I need to do on a schedule with set times and it’s really helped me stay focused on what I need to get done and when I need to get it done,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen said she started working on jumping exercises to stay healthy after she witnessed a few female athletes suffer knee injuries when she was younger.

When she decided to try track and field this spring, she had the full support of her softball teammates, including her pitcher and good friend Caitlyn Hendrickson, a Hayfield sophomore.

“We know she likes to do both and she does both very well. She does a good job of being on both teams and she cares more about her team than her own stats,” Hendrickson said. “You can tell she loves both and she would never want to quit either sport. It’s been awesome.”

Jacobsen said she would love to take a shot at competing in two state tournaments this spring — softball and track and field — but she realizes it would be highly unlikely due to scheduling conflicts. She does have her eyes set on the Hayfield long jump record that his stood since 2000.

“There’s definitely a lot of big motivators and that record is something I really want to work for,” Jacobsen said. “(In track) every single person out there is motivating you to do your best and they don’t realize it, but it really hits you in the heart when they’re always there for you.”

Jenna Jacobsen practices fielding in Hayfield gym Wednesday. Rocky Hulne/

Jacobsen, who is hitting .323 with a homer, two doubles, a triple and five RBIs this spring, credited her softball teammates for being supportive of her.

“Playing catcher is a lot to take in all at once and it’s kind of hard on your knees and your body, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Jacobsen said. “It would not be possible without our team and how happy we are to be with each other. Caitlyn and I have always been there for each other and we have kind of a special bond. We definitely want to get to state this year.”

Hendrickson said that Jacobsen is an ideal teammate on and off the field.

“She picks everybody up, no matter what. Whether we’re up by 20 or down by 20, she’s telling everybody how to do better and she’s telling everybody what they’re doing right,” Hendrickson said. “She never brings people down ever and she’s a great teammate to have.”

Jacobsen also competes on the Hayfield volleyball team in the fall and she’s active in volleyball and softball during the summer.

The Hayfield track and field team will compete in the ‘True Team’ Section 1A meet in Eyota at 1 p.m. Tuesday and the Viking softball team will play at Medford at 4:30 p.m. Friday.