Kempfer's 3,200 puts her in elite company

Festus senior Jamie Kempfer graduated to the big leagues with her eye-popping 3,200-meter run Saturday at the Festus Early Bird Invitational.

Kempfer, who is only beginning her second full season of track, took off at the gun and led the entire eight laps to cross the finish line first in 10:23.98, which landed her in fifth on the U.S. leaderboard at the end of the day.

“It’s really not sinking in yet; I’m still in shock that it happened,” Kempfer said of her nationally elite performance. “It means I have to refocus and redirect my goals. It’s going to take a lot more dedication on my part, but I’m ready for it, and it’ll be worth it.”

Kempfer missed her sophomore season because of stress fractures, and she wasn’t fully able to tackle distance running till her junior year. After some early success in cross country, Kempfer captured third in the Class 3 3,200-meter run at the state meet last year with an 11:08.12.

She continued to gain confidence and strength last fall, finishing second in Class 3 (17:59) before earning a trip to the Nike Cross Nationals, where she took 19th out of a field of nearly 200 in 17:58.50.

Last spring was the first time Kempfer raced a 3,200, and while she said she learned a lot, she also realizes there’s a lot more to absorb about the event and running track.

“I’m still figuring out my race strategy,” Kempfer said. “Once you get to a higher level racing becomes more strategic than before and it’s a whole other ball field you have to learn.”

Eureka’s Hannah Long, who had her own chart-topping run in the 1,600-meter run (4:45.83), said she tried to watch most of the 3,200 while she was warming up for the 1,600-meter relay.

“I can’t believe Jamie ran that fast, and it’s awesome,” Long said. “I can’t wait to see what she does the rest of the year. It’s so cool to have such good competition right here in Missouri at these meets.”

Read: Long feeling fast again; races to top of rankings

Kempfer finished third in the 1,600 (4:55.57) to jump into the U.S. top 20 rankings, and she said there was a definite benefit to having success in that race prior to her 3,200-meter run.

“The mile did give me confidence,” Kempfer said. “I was really unsure of where I was in my training, and that helped calm the nerves for the 3,200.

“That race proved to me that I’m right there with the elites. I’m way faster than I think I am. I think it’s a mental barrier that I crossed with that race.”

Kempfer was able to take a little pressure off her season by deciding to sign with Missouri. Her future college coach, Joe Lynn, was at the Festus meet, and Kempfer said she could hear him cheering for her.

“He was really excited,” Kempfer said. “He was the one that told me what pace I was on and that if keep going I could break 10:25.”

So while the pressure to perform to impress the college coaches has been removed, it’s been replaced with a new kind of pressure. And as her success continues, the pressure of heightened expectations continues to grow. Kempfer said she welcomes that kind of stress.

“It’s a different kind of pressure,” Kempfer said. “There are a lot of high expectations from everyone, coaches and myself, but it’s positive pressure because you’re a person who does things that scare other people. I’ll use it to help me push that much harder.

“It’s not about times. It’s more about pushing myself and proving I can accomplish things and compete with people I never thought I could compete with. It’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to be a fun one.”


Girls 3200 Photos

Jamie Kempfer Athlete Profile

Complete MoMileSplit Coverage of Festus Early Bird