Running down the list of activities Chelsea Jenner is involved in, you wonder how she managed to find time to become an elite softball player.
In addition to juggling her Grade 12 studies at Abbotsford Christian and a part-time job at McDonald’s, she plays clarinet in her school’s concert band and saxophone in the jazz band.
On top of that, she runs cross-country and track in the softball off-season, and trains for her primary sport at Power Zone Academy and with the Ignite Athlete Development Program through Pacific Sport in Abbotsford.
It makes for a hectic schedule with conflicts galore, and looking ahead at her jam-packed 2013 calendar, Jenner was worried she might even have to skip her own senior prom. Regional tryouts for the junior national softball team are slated to be held in Cloverdale that same May weekend.
But much to her relief, it appears she’ll be able to celebrate with her grad class.
“If I’ve made the first round of cuts, they’ll give me the evening off so I can go to my prom,” she explained with a chuckle. “Thankfully I’ll get to go, but it’s going to be crazy. I’ll be up all night, and then have to perform again the next day. I guess it’ll be a good test.
“I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. But I’m going to do it.”
That readiness to take on challenges – not to mention the discipline required to master so many varied pursuits – has fueled Jenner’s rise to become one of Canada’s most promising softball prospects.
The 17-year-old centre fielder has excelled at the national championships the past two summers with Team B.C., and she was called up by the Canadian senior women’s national team to serve as a pinch runner at the Canadian Open International Championships held last July at Softball City in Surrey. She was also named Softball BC’s 2012 athlete of the year.
San Jose State University, an NCAA Div. 1 program, took notice, and Jenner recently signed a letter of intent to seal a scholarship from the Spartans.
Jenner’s way to San Jose was paved, at least in part, by Dave Paetkau, her instructor at Power Zone Academy. Paetkau and San Jose State head coach Peter Turner have known each other since the 1980s, dating back to their tenures with the Canadian and American national men’s softball teams, respectively. Later in their careers, they played together for a senior A men’s team out of Salt Lake City.
So when Turner wanted to know more about this kid from Canada, he got a glowing reference he could really trust.
“She has all the right skills,” Paetkau said of Jenner. “She has a strong arm, she’s quick, she puts the ball into play. On defence and on offence, she’s an asset to any team she plays on.
“But the one thing about her that sets her apart is, she’s very consistent. She doesn’t seem to go through a lot of peaks and valleys, where you play really well and then you play really bad – those 0-for-20 slumps, and then you go 7-for-10. She doesn’t have a lot of games where she doesn’t get on base, and that’s hard to do in our game.”
For Jenner, one of the most exciting elements about attending San Jose State next fall is that having games rained out – an all-too-frequent occurrence in the Fraser Valley – will largely become a thing of the past.
“Our season technically starts in mid-April (locally), but we don’t usually start playing until May because the weather is crazy,” she said. “So I’m really excited about the weather in San Jose.”