Spencer’s Contributions Reach Beyond the Diamond

    Jenny Spencer is one of many UCSD student-athletes who bring something to the campus that might not be visible on a daily basis. Since UCSD athletics don’t attract large fan bases, Spencer’s contributions on the softball field may be overlooked, and her extra-curricular activities also don’t garner the attention they deserve. She is a softball player at a school that does not offer the chance for monetary compensation for athletics, despite the fact that she, like many other Tritons, has the ability to earn such a scholarship. However, Spencer has spent her collegiate career doing more than just catching pop-ups and stealing bases.

    Greg Dale/Guardian
    Senior centerfielder Jenny Spencer showcases her talent on the softball field with sparkling defense and hitting, but Spencer also works hard off the field at A.V.I.D. and O.A.S.I.S.

    During the 2006 season, Spencer, a senior centerfielder, led the Triton softball team in nine offensive categories, including marks of 66 hits, 15 doubles, five home runs and 14 stolen bases, numbers that put her among the all-time single season leaders in those categories. She doubled her career triples, more than doubled career home runs and continued the amazing upward bound in every single offensive category, ending her career among the UCSD leaders in six different categories.

    “When you tell her she can’t do something, she will try to prove you wrong in every way possible,” said head coach Patti Gerckens, who has helmed the Triton squad for the past 14 years. “She is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever had on the team.”

    Spencer, for her part, remains amiable and modest about her accomplishments, which include back-to-back selections to the All-California Collegiate Athletics Association First Team. Her competitive nature has been one of the keys to her continued run at numerous Triton records and a power surge that led the 5-foot-2-inch phenom to go from four career home runs entering the year to five round-trippers, the second-highest total on the team, this year.

    Billy Wong/Guardian
    Senior outfielder Jenny Spencer works hard as a tutor at O.A.S.I.S. amd A.V.I.D., but she has managed to find time to perfect her softball game.

    “Honestly, I go up to bat, I see a pitch and I just swing at it, and this year they just went out,” said Spencer, laughing away sarcastic steroid speculation and seeming truly unaffected by her own accomplishments. “I don’t really think a whole lot. I try to just clear my head and go on instincts.”

    Teammate senior outfielder Niki Anderson has been playing beside Spencer for four years and despite starting as polar opposites, Anderson found a “happy middle ground” with Spencer, whom she says cares so little about her own stats that her teammates had to cover her ears so she didn’t hear them during Senior Day festivities.

    “Jenny brings optimism and a genuine love of the game,” Anderson said. “She played on a 23-under team during our offseason to stay in shape and get a chance to have just one more inning to play. She is a never-say-die kind of player, who would stand with me out in the outfield and try to plot how we were going to win the game, regardless of the current situation.”

    Gerckens calls her exiting star a “little bull” because “she would literally run through walls for the team.”

    Spencer, recently voted as team MVP, says that her “dream catch” has long been to catch a ball while crashing through the fence. Like so much else she has accomplished in her career, the San Diego native did just that in her second-to-last home game.

    The off-the-field Spencer is much like the on-the-field Spencer. Maybe a little less competitive and not confined to the same uniform on a daily basis, she still works just as hard as she does during doubleheaders against the best teams in the CCAA.

    Aside from the added pressures of being a student, Spencer has also been tutoring at the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services and leading a Math 20C workshop this quarter that meets for two hours twice a week. The position requires Spencer to communicate with professors, review homework and teach concepts to students. While obviously suitable work for a math/secondary education major, her teaching does not stop on campus. As part of her major, Spencer has taught younger students, in Advancement Via Individual Determination teaching last quarter and is spending this quarter as an intern teaching algebra at DePortola Middle School three days a week.

    “Jenny was working with students who don’t have much math confidence,” math resource teacher Naomi Raffel said. “She undertook the formidable task of teaching them the strategies for solving word problems, — one of the most difficult parts of first-year algebra.”

    Though obviously rigorous, Spencer asserts that her added work is something she is passionate about. She admits, however, that it has been both difficult and time consuming, calling the past two quarters of this year the most challenging.

    Spencer’s fall schedule consisted of leaving her San Diego home at close to 8 a.m., teaching one period, and then racing to her workshop at 11 a.m. After two hours at the O.A.S.I.S. workshops, a “quick bite” was all time allowed before rehabilitation and getting onto the softball diamond for practice at 2 p.m. By this point, Spencer had already spent six hours awake and active, the maximum for many UCSD students who are forced to retreat to their lairs and the comfort of World of Warcraft before the sunlight starts to burn. But for Spencer, this was only the halfway point. After three to four hours of practice, it was off to class until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. and then to the library to finish up extra work.

    “Tuesdays and Thursdays we also had weights at 6 a.m.,” Spencer adds nonchalantly, ignoring that a 13-hour day is enough to scare even the hardest worker or biggest overachiever.

    While the grind decreased during winter quarter with workshops only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the extra time on Mondays and Wednesdays usually went to preparation for the weekend slate of games and any necessary arrangements before road trips that usually meant leaving on a Thursday and playing on Friday and Saturday.

    “I remember at one point in the winter I realized I had not been home long enough to watch one entire TV show, and that was very sad,” said Spencer, recognizing the pressures of her schedule.

    Despite Spencer’s jam-packed daily life, she remains completely positive, as her dedication and willingness to help those around her is apparent.

    “She is extremely busy, but never complains, and even tutors girls on the bus on our road trips,” Anderson said. “Jenny finds time to study regardless of the time or place. She takes her math book with her when we go out to basketball or soccer games as a team, and studies while we’re watching the game. I have no clue how she does it, but she manages to cheer and follow the game while learning about math.”

    Raffel added that Spencer’s contributions have been extraordinary.

    “Jenny’s sports and leadership experience made her a good role model for this group of students,” Raffel said. “She created games that motivated her students to work together positively. This is quite an achievement, because these students are adept at hiding their lack of knowledge by choosing to object to everything. My experience with interns has been good, but now Jenny has set a much higher bar.”

    After moving around a lot when she was younger due to her father’s military profession, Spencer chose UCSD because she “didn’t want to move anymore.” Though she admits to not knowing what she’ll be doing next month, let alone next year, she will be starting a masters program in teaching this summer and has every intention of remaining in San Diego.

    When asked if she has any regrets about the rigorous schedule she put herself through, Spencer says no immediately.

    “It’s all stuff I love to do,” she said. “I think I’m better for it.”

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