Four Kersenbrock siblings compile impressive success in track and field.
Athletic recruiting is uncertain work. Coaches search for young people who fit the institution. They’re also looking for future All-Americans. Recruiting would be a lot easier if every house had a sign in the front yard listing the future accomplishments of the prospects living there. And track and field coaches from around the country would have flocked to M. J. and Jane Kersenbrock’s home in O’Neill, Neb.
Fortunately for Nebraska Wesleyan, Coach Ted Bulling found the Kersenbrocks without the help of magic yard signs. He recruited all four of M. J. and Jane’s children: Claire (’04), Mary (’06), Anne (’10) and John (’13). Together, the Kersenbrocks have won seven All-America Awards and counting at NWU.
“It’s obvious that they love track and field. Each one has a love for the sport and enjoys competing and working to improve,” Bulling said. “Claire was probably the least known coming out of high school,” Bulling said.
“She was a quiet person who simply did the training we prescribed and became a truly great athlete.” Claire graduated in 2004 as a five-time All-American. She holds the school records in the outdoor 200 and 400 meters.
Younger sister Mary joined Claire on the 2003 indoor 4 x 400 meter relay team, which won All-America status and set a new school record. Mary repeated as an All-American in the same event the following year. “Mary is the outgoing one of the bunch and was very gifted in the shorter sprints,” Bulling recalled. “She battled injuries in her career but always worked hard to come back.”
The younger two Kersenbrocks have been the most versatile. Anne competed in 16 events as a Prairie Wolf, while John can short sprint, long sprint, long jump and triple jump. “One of the challenges we face with Anne and John is in asking, ‘Exactly which events do we focus on?’” Bulling said.
While Anne flourished at the conference level, winning an astounding 34 All-GPAC Awards, All-America status remained elusive. She twice placed ninth at nationals, just one spot away from becoming an All- American. She finally broke through in March at the NCAA III Indoor Track and Field Championships, placing eighth in the long jump.
“I never felt any pressure, but my sisters’ success motivated me to become the best athlete I can be,” Anne said. “When I got [an All- America Award] I felt like I worked hard to deserve it.”
John has high expectations to follow in his sisters’ footsteps. Despite injuries in his first season, he qualified for nationals in the indoor long jump, placing 10th, just two spots out of All-America status. He and Anne are this year’s GPAC outdoor long jump champions. A hamstring injury prevented John from competing at the NCAA national meet.
“John’s next three years certainly have the potential to be pretty special,” Bulling said. “While I can’t predict the future, I do feel comfortable in saying that John has the characteristics to join his sisters as an NCAA track and field All-American. I have seen two siblings who are both All-Americans. Outside of the Kersenbrocks, I don’t think I know of three, let alone four!”
As the youngest sibling, John’s graduation will mark the end of an era of sorts in NWU track and field. But Coach Bulling is quick to point out that Claire has a 3-year-old daughter named Grace. Bulling’s 2025 recruiting prospect list already has one name penciled in.