Girls track and field: Wendelberger turning into a star in 4A

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Sophomore at LAHS is already one of the state’s elite athletes

By Mike Cote

At first sight, she doesn’t stand out. It’s not until one looks at the stat sheet on her blossoming track and field career that Laura Wendelberger catches the eye.
Wendelberger, a sophomore, isn’t tall, something that most top high jumpers or hurdlers tend to have in common. But that doesn’t seem to be an issue for her.
Heading into Saturday’s regular season-ending home meet for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls track and field meet, Wendelberger has already qualified for four different events, including both lengths of hurdles, the high jump and the long jump. Only a handful of other Class 4A athletes in the state have made the cut in four events this season.
Wendelberger could play a huge role for Los Alamos at this year’s state meet — scheduled for May 13-14 — as the Hilltoppers go for their third straight state team title. They are favored to win.
“It’s been great so far,” Wendelberger said of her team’s performance during the 2011 regular season. “We want to keep improving. We want to keep getting better and be ready for state.”
Over the course of the last two weeks, Wendelberger has been kept out of hurdles competition — Los Alamos head coach Paul Anderson said he’s trying to limit the amount of strain on his top athletes during the latter part of the season — but has still been jumping effectively. Wendelberger won the Richard A. Harper Invitational’s high jump competition against some of the top talent in the Albuquerque metro area.
She will head in as the favorite to win her second straight Class 4A high jump competition.
In 2010, Wendelberger, then a freshman, pulled off a minor upset in the state high jump championship. Wendleberger went into a jump-off for the state title against teammate and 2009 state title holder Lindsay Benage.
Wendelberger snuck over the bar at 5 feet, 4 inches on her first jump-off attempt to take the title. Clearing 5-4 came for her just a week after she cleared 5-2 for the first time in her career.
Becoming one of the top track athletes in the state has come quite naturally for Wendelberger, who didn’t put much extra effort into the track and field season before the season opened.
“I have soccer and basketball. I don’t train specifically for track,” she said. “It helps that I do get to cross-train, I guess.”
This year, Wendelberger and Los Lunas’ Nicole Jenrette are the only two Class 4A athletes that have cleared 5-4. Right behind them at 5-2 are three other 4A athletes, including Benage.
In long jump, she currently owns the third best mark in the state that’s been posted in 2011, 16 feet, 9-1/2 inches.
Wendelberger’s 2011 success has come at no surprise to Anderson.
“I saw it in her last year,” said Anderson. “She’s young and we spent a lot more time in the weight room training her for different things. She’s a competitor. She wants to get better. She’ll do anything we ask of her.”