Olympic Dreams: Sam Sonnenberg

Go Gophers! Sonnenberg won the 2011 Big Ten outdoor title.
Go Gophers!
Sonnenberg won the 2011 Big Ten outdoor title.
Go Gophers!

June 20, 2012

As the U.S. Olympic Team Trials approach (June 21-25, June 28-July 1), a handful of former Minnesota track & field athletes are training for the chance to compete in London. GopherSports.com recently caught up with some of these former Golden Gophers.

Just last year, Samantha Sonnenberg was winning Big Ten and NCAA awards while wearing the maroon and gold. This weekend, she will compete for the chance to wear the red, white, and blue in London as a member of Team USA. As a Gopher, Sonnenberg took home the 2011 Big Ten outdoor pole vault title and earned indoor All-America honors in both 2010 and 2011. This season, she has competed at various meets, including the USA Indoor Championships, leading up to the Olympic Trials. Her new personal record of 14-5 1/4 (4.40m) at the Hamline Twilight. Sonnenberg is still training with Gopher volunteer pole vault coach Caroline White.

GopherSports: About a year ago, you were still in college, vaulting for the Gophers. Now you are preparing for Olympic Trials. Is that strange to think about?
Samantha Sonnenberg: I feel like it still really hasn't hit me yet. I feel like the outdoor season has been long. Indoor went by so quick--it always does. USA is always super fun. That was a great experience. Outdoor is just more unpredictable, because I didn't know exactly what I was doing. I feel like it hasn't hit me yet. It's weird thinking that a year has gone by already. I'm still training with the same people. I'm on my own a lot, but vaulting with Caroline still hasn't changed much. I think that's good, because I didn't really have time to change anything.

GS: So it's nice to have that continuity?
SS: Yes, just because I feel like if I change too much, I probably would have needed more than a year to adjust.

GS: Being from Wisconsin and going to school and training in Minnesota, is it nice to be so close?
SS: I do like being kind of close. I'm all for moving out somewhere for a little bit, but I like training here. My family can come up--my family drives here and back in a day, or I can drive home if I want to, which is nice.

GS: At the Hamline meet when you cleared 14-5 1/4, what was going right for you that day?
SS: Honestly, I don't know. Every time I PR, I never remember the vault, actually. I do remember, but not really, just because there's so much adrenaline. That day, I was talking to one of my friends. She was about to leave, and I said, `I'm feeling really good today. If you leave, you might be missing a PR.' I was just like, `I feel like I'm going to PR today,' and I did."

GS: How did it feel when you got a provisional qualifying time for Trials?
SS: I think my mark from last year (about 14-3) would have carried over because it was after May 1, so I wasn't feeling too much pressure with getting a mark (this year). But I still obviously wanted to improve my mark from that. But I felt way more comfortable. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders after jumping that, because I'm like, `I'm in for sure. I know I'll get in with this mark.' I just felt a lot better about it. But I felt like I had been ready to jump higher, so it was a good feeling.

GS: What are you most looking forward to for your first trip to the Olympic Trials?
SS: Being nervous. I tend to jump really well when I'm nervous. I feed off of it really well, and it doesn't freak me out too much. I feel like at a lot of big meets I've done pretty well being under pressure.

GS: What is it like seeing other former Gophers also trying to make the Olympic team?
SS: It's so awesome. It's going to be so nice seeing familiar faces around and knowing that you're not there by yourself--especially having not just people you know, but other Gophers there with you as well. It's pretty exciting for our program. We've had a lot of really awesome people come out of this program. It will be really cool to be there with them and know that you're not there alone.

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