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Mercurio leaps into good news at Nebraska

May 25, 2018 GMT

Angela Mercurio started firing emails to coaches.

When it came to finding a college, the Canadian athlete found herself playing catch-up during spring of her senior year in high school. She was hoping a friend’s list, lined with emails for track and field coaches, would help find her a home for the next four years or so.

“Coach (Gary) Pepin actually called me five minutes after I sent the email,” Mercurio said of the longtime Huskers coach.

“We’d like to get you on a visit,” she recalls him saying.

But before lining up any travel plans to Lincoln, Mercurio had to do some research.

“Nebraska? I don’t even know where Nebraska is,” the Kitchener, Ontario, native remembers. “Me and my mom had to look it up on a map.

“It was pretty random how that all happened, but once I came on my visit, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a great place.’”

Suddenly Nebraska went from an unknown to a sure thing, and Mercurio envisioned herself growing as a person and as an athlete in Lincoln.

Mercurio is among the several Husker track and field athletes competing in the NCAA Division I West Preliminary round, currently taking place in Sacramento, California. Mercurio, who is seeded 12th in the women’s triple jump, will compete for a spot at nationals on Saturday.

Her season-best mark is 43 feet, 3¾ inches, and the senior said she’s been working with a new technique this season.

“I just think I needed a little more time to really fine-tune it,” she said. “That was a little bit shaky, but with the 43-3, I was happy with the jump for sure.”

Mercurio is also just happy to be jumping.

Not only was she looking for a college during her senior year of high school, she was also trying to figure out what was wrong with her knee, which forced her to miss her final prep season.

An MRI revealed a tumor, and doctors later found it to be benign. But the early feedback from doctors painted a bleaker outlook for Mercurio’s athletic career.

“A bunch of doctors didn’t even want to do surgery,” she said. “Some doctors were saying, ‘Oh, you probably will never walk again for a long time.’”

Mercurio hadn’t even set foot on Nebraska’s campus yet. Thoughts of whether she’d have an athletic scholarship waiting for her started creeping into her mind.

“But when I came here and I met with a doctor in Omaha he was like, ‘Oh, this is easy. You’ll be back in three months.’ It seemed unreal at first.

“I was 18 at the time, so it just seemed so much bigger. Maybe if I had heard that (early) news now I would be able think about it more logically, but then it just seemed like everything was over.”

Mercurio had surgery the following October to remove the tumor from her knee, and she was training again in January, though she did redshirt during the 2015 indoor season.

She has improved her marks along the way. Mercurio’s best outdoor-season leap as a freshman was 41-3, then 41-8 as a sophomore and a personal-best 43-4½ as a junior. She was a second-team All-American last year.

Mercurio, who carries a long list of academic honors and achievements, said she will compete in indoor next winter before turning her focus to medical school.

“I think I want to work with women and children around the world and access to health care,” the biochemisty major said.