Stevens Academic Center Spotlight: Jenna Puterbaugh

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond, and pool, they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a little better in our scholar-athlete spotlight.

Name: Jenna Puterbaugh
Year: Senior
Sport: Track and Field (Sprinter)
Major: Psychology

Sarah Bergstrom (SB): Why did you decide to come to USC?

Jenna Puterbaugh (JP): Originally I was just going to follow wherever a scholarship took me. I really didn't want to have to pay for school so that was my goal. I was looking at smaller schools before, but then I ran at a meet and met the USC coach and it just hit me. I don't know what it was but I called my coach (who had run track here) and I asked what it would take for me to get a scholarship to USC. That Monday's practice was way harder, but I knew it was what I signed up for. It was such a God thing, USC ended up calling and everything worked out. It was perfect. 

SB: What has it been like to run track for USC?

JP: It's been kind of crazy because we've had some changes while I've been here. But it's been awesome, I can't complain at all. I've gotten to train with some really legendary people. Now I feel like it's all come to a head and we are really reaching our peak. We have so much talent on this team and we've kind of changed the dynamic this year. I'm excited to see what this season's like. 

SB: What is different about this season for you?

JP: From the beginning, in the offseason, the coaches did an awesome job of establishing a foundation for us. Our preseason workouts were literally the hardest things I've ever done in my life, things that I never would have thought I was capable of. But that really bonded us as a team because none of us thought we could do it and none of us could have done it without each other. We are all able to recognize each other as teammates now. In track that can be a hard thing because it's so individual at times. We have such a strong chemistry now. Also, there are really high standards and we're excited about that. It's challenging us and bringing out the best in us.

SB: How has it been running for a new coach? What have you learned from Caryl Smith Gilbert?

JP: I told her in the beginning of the semester that I'd be in her office a lot because I'm trying to squeeze three years into one. (laughs) I'm the kind of person who works really well with coaches who are in my face, and that's her. She's not mean, she just tells everything straight. She's going to tell you what you're capable of and what you need to do to get there. Everything she teaches us is bigger than track. That is so impactful to me because I've already learned so much in both track and life in such a short time. 

SB: You've struggled with injuries in the past couple of seasons, does this season have some special meaning or feel like a clean slate?

JP: It's super exciting. Last year I was feeling pretty defeated. Every year I've encountered some sort of injury. I was trying to be everything for the team that I could be which ultimately injured me and meant that I hurt my team. But I've learned from it. Learned my limits and learned to take responsibility for that. This year is different. 

SB: Transitioning to the academic side of things, why did you decide to be a psychology major?

JP: I came into USC and thought I was going to do human performance, which a lot of athletes do. Once I started taking classes for it, I realized I was learning the same things on the track as I was in the classroom. That's kind of cool but I just thought that being at USC, I should take advantage of learning something different. I took a Psych 100 class as a GE and realized that this is what I want to be doing. Ultimately I want to get into marriage and family therapy. I love that psych works everywhere, especially on the track. The mental game is 90 percent of what you do out here and getting to understand that has been so helpful. 

SB: I read that you're interested in photography, do you get a chance to do that a lot?

JP: I wish it was something I really knew how to do. I've never been taught how to do it, never taken a class, but I hope to learn it for real one day. I love doing it. I take photos at parties, with my family, and whenever. I really enjoy it. 

SB: Closing out with a deeper question, what does it mean to you to be a Trojan?

JP: Every USC person has so much pride. No one in my family had gone here like a lot of students, and so early on I knew nothing about it. But my coach had gone here, and when I started to be around him I was intrigued. When I came on my visit it was so different from anywhere else I had gone. After being here for a couple years now I still love that. Being a Trojan is being in a family. Someone's going to have your back no matter what and you are going to have someone's back no matter what. It's a loyalty, it's a legacy, it's a blessing. I feel so blessed to be here. It's the best I could think of for a college experience.

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