Chugiak jumper makes leap to Division I

Saturday, June 9, 2018 - 10:44
  • Chugiak senior Emma Nelson signs a National Letter of Intent to compete in track and field at Division I Oregon State University during a ceremony held Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 in the Chugiak High library. Watching Nelson sign are (from left) Chugiak jumping coach Charity Manwaring and Nelson’s parents, Louise and Jack Frost. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • From left, Chugiak’s Kassidy Murfin, Brooklynn Gould, Emma Nelson and Rebekah Smith pose for a photo after the quartet took the top four spots in the girls’ triple jump at the Region IV Track and Field Championships at Dimond High School on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Nelson won the event, Gould was second, smith third and Murfin fourth. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chugiak’s Emma Nelson hits the bar during the high jump on Friday, May 26, 2017 during the state track and field meet at Palmer High. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen.
  • Chugiak’s Emma Nelson leaps in the long jump finals on Friday, May 26, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen
  • Chugiak’s Emma Nelson (171) finished 18th in the girls varsity race at the Region IV Cross Country Championships at Bartlett High on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2017. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chugiak’s Emma Nelson rounds a corner during the Cook Inlet Conference ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage on Feb. 18, 2017. On Wednesday, March 8, Nelson was the top local skier at the U.S. Junior National meet in Lake Placid, New York, finishing 17th in female U18 qualifying and placing fourth in her six-person quarterfinal heat. (Star file photo/Matt Tunseth)

One of Alaska’s top jumpers is taking the biggest leap of her athletic career.

Chugiak senior Emma Nelson signed a National Letter of Intent on Tuesday to compete in track and field at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“It’s kind of unreal,” Nelson said after a signing ceremony in the Chugiak High library attended by dozens of friends, family, coaches and teachers.

A multisport athlete who had to decide both where to attend school and which sport to participate in, Nelson said the signing came as a relief.

“It’s a nice weight lifted off my shoulders to know where I’m going,” said Nelson, who will compete in the long jump, triple jump and high jump in college.

Nelson’s final decision came down to a choice between Nordic skiing at the University of Vermont or jumping at either the University of Utah or Oregon State.

Nelson said she had a chance to visit the OSU campus in central western Oregon, which she described as “gorgeous.”

While visiting, Nelson meet the track team, and the camaraderie she witnessed among her future teammates played a big role in her final decision.

“The girls were so encouraging and the atmosphere was really positive,” she said. “They all supported each other and that was something I was really looking for.”

OSU finished 11th at last year’s PAC-12 Championships and had a team record six women qualify for the NCAA West Regional in May, topping the program’s previous best of four.

Nelson has been a star athlete since her days as a standout athlete for Mirror Lake Middle School and on the Nordic skiing circuit as a member of Alaska Nordic Racing. Her high school career has included Alaska Class 4A long jump championships the past two seasons, during which she helped the Mustangs to back-to-back state titles. She’s placed at state in the long, triple and high jump in each of her three high school seasons, finishing third in both the long and triple last season. She also competed in the 400 meters, finishing fourth.

Nelson’s resume on the snow is almost as impressive as her exploits around the track. She helped the Mustangs to consecutive second-place finishes at the state ski meet the past two years, where she was sixth in both the individual classic and freestyle races in 2017. She also competed for Team Alaska at the U.S. Junior National Championships in May in Lake Placid, New York, where she placed 17th in U18 women’s classic sprint race, 21st in the 5-kilometer classic and 35th in the 10K classic.

She’s also a four-time qualifier for the state cross country running meet, where she finished a career-best 13th her junior season.

During the signing ceremony, Nelson’s mom, Louise Frost, thanked her daughter’s coaches in a variety of sports over the years.

“I’d just like to thank everybody for coming and thank all the people from ballet to soccer to track and skiing — and everything else the kid has done,” Frost said.

Chugiak jumping coach Charity Manwaring cited Nelson’s willingness to do whatever it takes for her team as one of the senior’s key strengths.

“Emma has proven to not only be a team player, but also a mentor to runners and jumpers on our track team,” Manwaring said.

Chugiak head coach Melissa Hall was unable to attend the signing ceremony due to family commitments Outside, but she helped plan the event from afar and wished her star athlete congratulations by breaking the news of the signing on Facebook last week.

Even Nelson’s rivals gave her glowing reviews. Chugiak activities principal Tim Helvey said he texted Dimond coach Kathleen Navarre — whose Lynx have been one of Chugiak’s biggest rivals in recent years — to ask about the Chugiak senior’s top qualities.

Helvey said Navarre praised Nelson as “a positive, top-notch competitor who steps up to any challenge.”

“She’s a great kid,” Navarre wrote.

Nelson said she plans to continue skiing competitively through the winter. She said Nordic training benefits her jumping because of the balance and leg strength needed for both.

“I’ll just integrate more of my high jump training and long jump training through my ski season,” she said.

Manwaring said she expects Nelson — who won the high jump at the prestigious Oregon Relays last year with a personal-best leap of 5-feet, 6-inches — to have a stellar career in Corvallis.

“I have no doubt that Emma will continue to hone and develop her skills while competing at Oregon State University,” she said. “And I believe that we have not seen the last of Emma’s successes.”

Before signing her letter, Nelson thanked her friends, family, coaches and teammates for helping her reach her goals.

“I don’t know where to start,” she said as she addressed the large crowd inside the library that included her older sister, former CHS standout Paige, via Facetime from college. “Every single person in this room has helped me get to this point and helped my career here at Chugiak High School.”

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