HIGHLAND — It was a little over two months ago that Lena Giger of Highland made her first official NCAA Division I recruiting trip.
It took Giger one trip to California to make up her mind.
The two-time defending Class 2A state champion in the shot put, Giger has signed a national letter of intent to attend Stanford University.
"My four choices were Wisconsin, Cornell, Duke and Stanford. They are all great schools and it seemed like each visit got better,'' Giger said. "Stanford was the last one I took and from the first time I saw it, I knew it was where I wanted to go.''
"The school, the facilities, the athletics and academics. It was what I wanted.''
Giger will be the fifth local track and field athlete in the past five years to compete at Stanford.
Elaine Patten, of O'Fallon, competed in the high jump and graduated from Stanford last spring, while Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsville (cross country and track and field) and Brendan Duncan of Waterloo (discus) currently attend Stanford.
Joining Giger as an incoming freshman will be Patrick Perrier, of O'Fallon. Perrier won the Class 3A state cross country championship 10 days ago.
Giger said she spoke with Duncan on her recruiting trip and got to know Stanford (throws) coach Michelle Eisenreich.
Eisenreich is a former coach at Brown University.
"There are probably seven or eight throwers on the women's team,'' Giger said. "Coach Eisenreich is very nice and she really knows her stuff. Combining academics and athletics will be a challenge at Stanford. But it will make me focus more.''
Giger also will compete in the hammer throw at Stanford.
An all-around athlete growing up, Giger competed in soccer, softball, swimming and basketball. Coached by her dad, David Giger, she was introduced to the shot put in the fifth grade, but didn't take it seriously until starting middle school.
"I played everything growing up. Even basketball. I'm only 5-5 now and I was even shorter back then,'' Giger said, laughing. "My dad loves track and field but I was going to play softball and give up the track. But he talked me into staying with track.
"I still love and miss softball. But I'm glad I stayed with track.''
Giger won her first high school state title as a sophomore two years ago with a toss of 43 feet 5 inches. Her winning toss last year of 47 feet 9 1/2 inches was nearly 6 feet longer than her nearest rival's. Giger's top career throw is 48 feet 10 3/4 inches, which also came a year ago.
Giger also had the opportunity to compete internationally. A member of the U.S. team that competed in the IAAF World Youth Championships in the Ukraine last Summer, Giger placed eighth in her age group.
"We were in Chicago for four days then were in the Ukraine for 10 days. The first three or four days were used to get used to the time change, then the meet itself lasted about six days,'' Giger said. "It was a great experience because I didn't know anybody on the team. The girl who won the shot put was from Turkey and was just amazing.''
In addition to training for the upcoming high school season and getting ready for college, Giger will try to earn a spot into the World Youth Championships in Eugene, Ore., this summer.
"They'll have the U.S. Trials and the top two will advance. I'm thinking I'll have to throw a minimum of 52 feet to have a chance. That's more then three feet farther than I've thrown before,'' Giger said. "It's a lot, but I added five feet from my sophomore to my junior year. If I keep progressing and keep training and working hard, maybe I'll have a shot.''
The daughter of David and Caroline Giger, Lena Giger will major in international relations at Stanford with the hope of attending law school.