A New Road To the High Jump
Sometimes, the road of life has a few more twists than you expect. For Bemidji State high jumper Steve Schreiber, those twists led him down a different path than he was planning.
As a seventh-grader in 1996, Schreiber was diagnosed with bone cancer in his jaw after a finding a small lump near his gums. He thought it might just be a popcorn kernel that got stuck behind his braces, but it turned out to be much more than that.
"(The type of cancer I had) normally spreads throughout your body but I got lucky and caught it right away," said Schreiber. "I went through nine months of chemotherapy and had part of my jaw removed. It happened during my growth spurt, so I probably could be a lot taller than I am now, even though I'm 6'1" now."
After several weeks of chemotherapy, Schreiber got rid of the cancer, but the effects of the chemotherapy were hard on his body. At the time, basketball was Schreibers favorite sport, and he dreamt of playing it in college. He played a little in high school on the varsity team as a ninth-grader, and eventually more as a sophomore, but then he faced another twist in the road.
"In 11th grade, because of some of the chemotherapy, I ended up having a heart condition," said Schreiber. "I couldn't play basketball anymore. I was also running cross country and had to stop that. I had to quit all my running events in track."
Schreiber ended up able to compete as a high jumper, and he's happy that it worked out that way.
"The doctor told me that high jumping was alright because it wasn't too strenuous," said Schreiber. "I was actually re-evaluated in my senior year of high school, and everything checked out okay (with my heart), so I missed my last two years of basketball, but it pushed me in the direction of track."
When Schreiber was in ninth grade in Forest Lake, Minn., his math teacher asked him to go out for track, and if he wanted to try the high jump.
"I looked at it (the high jump), and I said I'll probably jump 6'0"" said Schreiber. "He looked at me and said 'we haven't had someone go 6'0" here in 10 years.' In my second meet of the year, I jumped 6'2"."
Schreiber steadily improved during high school, and eventually landed at South Dakota State with a scholarship. However, the head coach who recruited him left the school, and Schreiber wasn't happy there. He ended up at Bemidji State in his home state, and has been successful there ever since.
Schreiber boasts a long list of track and field accomplishments, including setting the school outdoor record in the high jump at 6'10 3/4", as well as the indoor record of 6'10". He was named the 2005 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Male Field Athlete of the Year after helping lead his team to their first-ever outdoor track and field league championship. Schreiber is a five-time league champion in the high jump, and has never been beaten by any other athlete in his conference.
"Coach (Craig) Hougen has really helped me a lot," said Schreiber. "I think if I went anywhere else I would be doing the same, if not worse than where I started. He is really good with all of his athletes."
"I knew that there was talent there, and I think it was just by spending time with him that I got to know his little quirks," said Hougen, who has coached the Beavers for 15 years. "I know when to work him a little bit, and when not to, because he is kind of a fragile athlete. You can't work him too hard or he gets hurt or sick. He's easy to work with because he does want to succeed. When they want it, then it is fun."
Schreiber also has a great support system at home with his parents and new wife Katie that he's known since ninth grade. They were married earlier this summer.
"My parents have really been there," said Schreiber. "They don't really push me into anything, and it's kind of nice to have the support there without the pressure. They're at every event they can get to " they drove down to St. Louis when I was there for nationals."
Schreiber still gets check ups with about six different doctors a year for his heart, liver and bones, but is still striving for success. He is double majoring in aquatic science and physical education, and wishes to teach and coach after graduation.
"It (the cancer) gave me a lot more appreciation of everything," said Schreiber. "I live more for the moment. It really makes you think about not wasting an opportunity."
Schreiber, who will compete in one last indoor season this school year, is certainly making the most his opportunities.