Jake Bender, Track and Field (Class of 2012)
Reflecting back on your experience as a student athlete at Neuqua Valley, how has being a student athlete impacted your years following high school?
Well first, it gave me the opportunity to go to school at the University of Nebraska, where I probably wouldn’t have looked to go there in the first place. I was able to get my degree there and then just being a student athlete teaches you so many different life skills that are so helpful. Now that I’m working in the real world, we have just time management and working hard [that] we need to do to be successful in life. It really has come a long way and it all started here, so I’m really thankful of [sic.] it.
What do you recall as your most impactful or memorable experience as a student athlete?
It was my sophomore year here on the track team. We had a great senior squad, I was fortunate enough to be called up on their relay team and so we ended up being the State champions in the 4 by 4 relay. I’ll always remember those guys, I’m still friends with them, love those guys. I’ll always remember that forever.
If you could advise present and future student athletes, what would you share with them?
Gotta to do the small things. It’s easy to show up to practice every day and work hard, but it’s what you do when you’re not at practice: what you’re eating, when you’re going to go to bed, any little thing you can get over anyone else to the smallest advantage will help in the long run.
What does it mean to you to be inducted into Neuqua Valley’s Hall of Fame?
What does it mean? It’s very, very humbling to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. I know we’ve had some absolute incredible athletes here, so I’m just very fortunate to be included in those guys, knowing some of their names. It really means a lot, and it’s one of those things I’ll be able to show to my kids one day too and I’ll be very proud. I’m very thankful.
What do you love about Track and running, and what kept you going?
I honestly was always just the fast kid growing up and then something about it just having the team around you, having the camaraderie. Especially with this team that they built at Neuqua it’s really team-focused, not individual based, which I know track can easily be an individual sport but it’s kind of just having that team camaraderie.
Who would you say helped you most along this journey—through high school, college?
I’d say it starts with my parents for sure—having their support, having them show up to meets, like I said before, cooking me the right meals, making sure I’m doing the right thing. They were definitely my number one supporters. But then you have the coaching staff here which without them, [this] probably wouldn’t have happened either way. So they’re awesome, and I’m really grateful for ‘em.