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Smock goes from small Minnesota town to Olympian

FARGO -- Looking back, it was just a couple of subtle steps that helped produce North Dakota State's first United States Olympic track and field athlete. How Amanda (Thieschafer) Smock went from small-town Melrose, Minn., to the 2012 Games in London is a testament in "you never know."

The headwaters trace to Randy and Trudi Smith, the parents of Bison football player Ryan Smith. They got to know the Thieschafer family, from Melrose, on the area youth gymnastics circuit when their daughter, Kiki Smith, competed.

Seeing an athletic girl who also exceled in track and field, Trudi Smith recommended Amanda to sports physiologist Brent Parmer, who also worked with Kiki Smith at what was then MeritCare Sports Medicine in Fargo.

"I just gave her one little sparkle of advice," Trudi Smith said. "Two weeks later, she called me and I told her to call Brent Parmer."

Parmer doubled as an assistant coach at NDSU and was told about Smock by NDSU head coach Ryun Godfrey. Parmer said he remembers having lunch with her at the NDSU dining center.

"You could just tell from meeting her that she had that aura about her," said Parmer, now working at Eastern Kentucky University. "If you told her that running through a brick wall would make her jump farther, she would ask you how many times she needed to run through it."

It wasn't long before Smock was part of Godfrey's first recruiting class at NDSU, a list of six athletes that was headlined by Kinsey Coles of Hillsboro.

"There is no way I thought about her being an Olympian," Godfrey said. "It's beyond what I ever imagined."

Godfrey was at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon this week when Smock landed her Olympic-qualifying triple jump on her first attempt -- then had to wait out another five attempts by other jumpers.

Godfrey, sitting in front of a large contingent of Bison fans and Smock family members, immediately turned around and told them that jump could stick as the winner, the biggest reason being the cool weather.

"Nobody was throwing very far in the javelin and nobody was pole vaulting real high at the same time," Godfrey said. "You never feel good about rooting against somebody, but I was just hoping Amanda would stay in the same spot."

She did.

Later, the victory party moved to a local restaurant in Eugene and Amanda Smock was the last to get there. The entire place gave her a standing ovation.

"She came in waving the U.S. flag and a big smile," Godfrey said. "I was just so happy for her because I know how hard she works and how dedicated she is. It's a big country and we have arguably the best track and field team in the world. It's pretty special."

It was a long way from the days when Godfrey was hoping Smock -- now 29 years old -- would do well at the NCAA Division II national level. Now she's one of the best triple jumpers in the world.

Not bad for a gymnastics kid from Melrose who was lightly recruited in track and field.