A pole vaulter's mind needs to be focused as he or she prepares to take flight. Any mistake with the pole or technical mistake going over the bar will prove costly.
For Northwest Missouri State's Jenny Scherfenberg (Simmons), that focus came from the desire to honor her brother, Jason Simmons' memory. That focus and drive took Scherfenberg all the way to a Division-II indoor national championship in 2003 and All-American status in the outdoor meet the same year.
“I spent so many years chasing a title to honor my brother who died in a car accident during my junior year in high school,” Scherfenberg said in an email to the Forum. “... On this particular day (during the 2003 indoor championships) I had a solid attempt at each height. I was not the best vaulter, (I was) the best vaulter that day.
“What an exciting moment the Lord gave me to honor my brother on a much bigger stage than I'd ever imagined.”
Scherfenberg's Northwest career has seen another honor added to it. Last week, she was named to the M-Club Hall of Fame as a member of the 2020 class.
“I actually struggle to accept such an honor because there are so many other deserving people,” Scherfenberg said. “The national championship I attained was actually a huge testimony in my walk with the Lord, so it's always humbling and good to be reminded of that journey.”
She credits her success to long-time Northwest coach Rich Alsup and fellow vaulters Tommy Leslie, Jon MacAfee and Ryan Miller. She also credits her high school coach Todd Cooper who received her first phone call after the national championship.
Aside from her exploits with the track and field team, Scherfenberg says some of her favorite memories came from following her brother, Wes Simmons, and the Bearcat football team.
“My entire family attended Northwest,” Scherfenberg said. “(There were) many road trips and celebrations following my brother, Wes Simmons, and the football team.”
Following her Bearcat career, Scherfenberg returned to her favorite sport growing up, volleyball, and established a club beach volleyball program.
“I played volleyball in in high school and redshirted my freshman year,” Scherfenberg said. “Volleyball was my first love.”
Scherfenberg began coaching volleyball, but she and her husband also began playing in beach volleyball tournaments across the nation. They were prepared to move to Florida when they learned they were going to have their first child.
The young family pivoted and instead built a court in their backyard.
“As we had more kids and beach (volleyball) became more popular, we started training juniors,” Scherfenberg said. “And our club was born.”
With her club team along with teaching, coaching and raising four daughters; Scherfenberg stays busy, but her brother Wes and his wife Amy (Coy) Simmons, a former Bearcat basketball player, help her stay up to date on all things Bearcats.
The 2020 Hall of Fame class will be inducted on Friday, Oct. 9, at the J.W. Jones Student Union Ballroom and will be recognized during the Homecoming game the following day against Northeastern State. Tickets for the induction and banquet can be purchased through the athletics offices and are on sale for $25.