A Competitive Fire Doesn’t Burn; It Fuels the Drive
To say that our April Spotlight honoree has a competitive nature is an understatement. It fuels a passion for her sport and education like one rarely seen in young athletes. It is why we have chosen this Nixon High School two-sport senior as our Athlete Spotlight honoree for this month. Laredo Sports Medicine Clinic is proud to announce our Athlete Spotlight honoree for April 2018, senior Jennifer “Jen” Peña of J.W. Nixon High School.
Our April Spotlight honoree started much like many of our Spotlight Athletes. Jennifer played volleyball, basketball, and ran track leading up to her high school years. While she enjoyed all sports, it was volleyball and basketball that called out to her competitive nature. She often played her brother, who is seven years older. That desire to beat him, to be better, stayed with her from then to now.
Jennifer Peña made her high school sports debut on the varsity volleyball team at J.W. Nixon High School. She looks back and remembers how intimidating it was to be the rookie on a team full of upper-class student-athletes. Much to her teammate’s credit, it was they who taught her volleyball I.Q. and welcomed her into the squad. Her travel team coach Sheri Alba also contributed significantly to her development as a player.
“Coach Alba used to tell me just to play. Relax and play the game,”
recalls Jennifer. Her freshman year didn’t turn out how the team or Jen had hoped. They didn’t make the playoffs. That experience only served to ignite a fire that burned well into her senior year. For the next three years, Jennifer and her Mustang teammates begin a three-year playoff run. Jennifer’s maturation on and off the court begins to pay off. Her sophomore year, the team comes together quickly, and they make the playoffs. They lose in the first round. Always learning, never losing, Jennifer works harder to elevate her game and that of her teammates. Jennifer enters her junior year as a seasoned veteran. The mighty Mustang team is now comprised mainly of underclass students with the team having graduated most of its members from last year. Nonetheless, they make the playoffs. Once again, they lose in that first round. Jennifer says,
“It was a hard loss. We were nervous and didn’t play our best volleyball. I was proud of our team though. We put in the time, and we were dedicated.”
Jennifer admits that the loss stung pretty good. Jen’s senior year was one to remember. She was now a team Captain, an experienced leader, and ready for the challenge of breaking through into the next round. And breakthrough they did. The J.W. Nixon team came in second in the district. They finally won in the first round, bi-district, and plowed their way into the Area round of the playoffs. Though they lost, Jennifer’s mission of winning a playoff game was accomplished.
Basketball is the sport where Jennifer’s tenacity is most evident. She started her basketball journey on the Nixon J.V. team. She worked hard and impressed the coaches enough to be moved to the varsity team by years’ end. Though she didn’t know the girls on her team, they embraced her.
“It was weird. I didn’t know any of my teammates. Still, they brought me in and just made me better”
said Jennifer graciously. Jen’s freshman year ends with the team making the playoffs. Her sophomore year starts with Jennifer coming off the bench. She loves this role. Often asked to be the defensive spark plug, her tenacious competitive nature fuels her ability to shut down opposing team’s scorers. The team makes the playoffs again. Though they lose in bi-district, Jennifer’s tough play earns her the coveted Sixth Man Award. This award is given to players who come off the bench play with distinction. Again, Jen finds herself in a leadership role. As a seasoned junior, she takes on the role of the big defender. She elevates her game by adding a scoring feature to her repertoire. In her junior year, the team makes it into the second round of the playoffs. As it was with volleyball, Jennifer’s senior in basketball was full of success. She captained her team into a district championship. The Mighty Mustangs made it to the third round of the playoffs. Jennifer’s dedication to her sport was rewarded with All-Region Team recognition. She also was the District’s Offensive MVP. Yes, that’s right, Offensive MVP. This award was a testament to the completeness of her game and development as a player. Jennifer also made Laredo’s All-City Team. When asked what stands out in her final season, Jennifer proudly, says
“The adversity we faced! Our team was rarely at 100%. Injury and illness kept many of the starters sidelined.”
Jennifer recalls one game where only eight players suited up and the majority of that squad played through the flu. It’s clear she enjoyed her senior year.
Now that her high school sports career is over, Jennifer Peña would like to continue to play at the college level, but her primary focus will always be her education. She plans on studying nursing and has no specific school selected, yet. She has interest in Texas A&M or UTSA.
Jennifer is grateful for her parents and coaches for their support over the years. They’ve been an inspiration to her. She also drew a lot of motivation from her sports hero, Kobe Bryant. She has carried Kobe Bryant’s quote,
“I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot,”
with her throughout her high school athletic journey. “I just wanted to win,” Jennifer says. “I gave it everything I had.” Jen also offers this advice to those who are coming behind her. “Work hard. Stay focused. Be dedicated and just play the game” she states.
Jennifer Peña’s competitive nature served her well in high school. We know that it will serve her well throughout her life. We at LSMC are proud to recognize Jennifer Peña as our April 2018 Athlete Spotlight honoree. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments! Dr. Puig, Dr. Solis, Dr. Potty, and the entire staff at Laredo Sports Medicine Clinic wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Laredo Sports Medicine Clinic is South Texas’ premier sports medicine and orthopedic care provider, located in Laredo, Texas.