Coming home isn’t supposed to be this tough.
Jenna Prandini, the former Clovis High star who became a 14-time All-America track and field star at Oregon, just thought she would visit with family and friends for a few days and enjoy some downtime.
Her first professional season is about to rev up, after all, a year like never before with the Summer Olympics also looming. Who knows when she’ll get the chance to see her parents again?
Prandini didn’t realize how difficult it would be to be home for the holidays. And face the daily challenges of … Mom’s home cooking.
“My mom was baking every day,” Prandini said. “It smelled so good. I was like, ‘Mom, what are you doing? I cannot eat that.’ ”
With her Olympic dream seemingly in reach, and a training regimen to maintain, Prandini continues to practice discipline in all she does – even if that means turning down Mom’s desserts.
Jenna Prandini owns the second fastest 100-meter outdoor time in collegiate history at 10.92 seconds. Her 200 time of 22.21 is fourth best. She’ll compete for a spot on this summer’s U.S. Olympic track and field team.
That same willpower helped Prandini become the NCAA’s most highly decorated female track and field star this past season.
The Bee caught up with Prandini after that visit home and discovered she remains surprised by her whirlwind record-setting season, one capped by her capturing college track and field’s Heisman Trophy equivalent: the Bowerman Award.
Prandini left Oregon’s program to turn pro but still trains and takes classes there. And though she wore Nike throughout her college career, Prandini has no problem wearing Puma now in Phil Knight’s backyard.
Q: How emotional was it for you to win the Bowerman Award last month in San Antonio?
A: I was just really surprised. The two other girls who I was up against are pretty amazing, too. I was just really shocked and humbled. It was a great way to end my college career.
Q: You turned pro this summer shortly after winning the 100-meter sprint and taking second in the 200 and long jump at the NCAA championships. The Olympics are just around the corner. How much did competing and training during an Olympic year affect your decision to forgo your final year of eligibility with Oregon?
A: I love competing for Oregon, and I love everything about being on a team. It’s fun for me. But it’s a really long season, especially always competing in three events. My body was kind of worn out. Now that I’m a pro, I can pick and choose which races I want to run and not always do all three events. It was a hard decision, but it was time to take that chance and go for it. I want to be peaking when the U.S. Trials come around; I don’t know if I could’ve done that and do all of the meets staying with Oregon. I think my body might be too tired by then.
It was a hard decision, but it was time to take that chance and go for it. I want to be peaking when the U.S. Trials come around; I don’t know if I could’ve done that and do all of the meets staying with Oregon.
Jenna Prandini on turning pro and skipping her senior season at Oregon
Q: But to sign with Puma? When you’re coming from the premier Nike school …?
A: I talked to a lot of companies. I’d never gone through anything like that before. When we were talking to Puma, it was a completely different experience from the rest. It was like a family. I felt welcomed. They want me to be their American female face of the company in the Olympics.
Q: What’s your training regimen like now that you’re a pro?
A: Definitely don’t want to do too much this early. I’ve been training with a former Oregon teammate, Trevor Ferguson. As far as training and stuff, I want to keep the same routine and mindset that I always have. Train Monday through Saturday. Thursday is kind of an off-day when I do yoga or stretches. Just trying to be even more focused. Not try to do anything crazy. Trust myself, trust my work.
14 All-America awards for Prandini between her indoor and outdoor track and field accomplishments
Q: And that includes maintaining discipline even around your mom’s cooking. When was the last time you ate at a fast-food joint?
A: It’s definitely been a while. I’m not sure. Does Chipotle count? I definitely try to avoid fast food at all cost. There’s an occasion when everyone has a breakdown. It happens. We have an off-day every other week when we’re allowed to eat what we want. I try not to go too crazy. But sometimes it’s hard. It’s been a learning process that I’m still trying to get a hang of. When I first got here, I never really knew how much nutrition actually helped. As the years went by, I started to see the huge role it plays on how I’m doing on the track.
Q: How badly do you want to go to the Olympics?
A: Going to the Olympics is every athlete’s dream. I don’t think about it too much, though. Right now, I’m just focused on the training and doing the hard stuff now. At practice, I make sure I’m doing all the little things. I’m aiming for the Olympics this year, and hopefully I can go to the next Olympics, too.