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Measuring the progress of a college athlete is a tad subjective at times, but for Le Ann Spesard, her success is easily determined by the tale of the tape.

If you recall, Spesard is a former four-sport standout — track, softball, volleyball, basketball — and a four-time Illinois High School Athletic Association Class A state finalist in shotput while at Paris High School.

Three years later, currently a junior at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., she now also has the distinction of being an NCAA Division III All-American.

Spesard recorded a toss of 44-feet, 8.25-inches (13.62 meters) to place eighth — the top eight earn All-American status — at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in Grinnell, Iowa on Mar. 10.

“That was my second-best throw all year … it was nice to finish eighth,” Spesard said. “Now that I’ve got the taste, I’m going for the gold in the outdoor season.”

Spesard’s best throw of the season was 45-7.25 (13.90 meters), occurring in a last chance meet at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., on Mar. 2. That toss not only established a Millikin University indoor record, it also qualified her for the NCAA meet, the fifth best toss in the country.

Spesard already holds the school mark for the outdoor season too, a toss of 44-0.75 (13.43 meters) on May 7, 2011.

It was a steady progression for Spesard approaching the 40-foot mark during her prep career at Paris.

As a freshman, she qualified for her first state finals with a toss of 31-9. As a sophomore, she advanced to her first finals round with a toss of 36-7, eventually placing 12th with a toss of 36-7.50.

Spesard’s numbers slipped a bit as a junior to 35-1.75, failing to advance to the finals round. But she had an excuse, playing the night before as a catcher for the Tigers in an IHSA regional softball game.

She bounced back as a senior with a heave of 39-9.50 — just missing that 40-foot plateau — in the Class A Shelbyville regional. Seeded No. 2 in the finals round, she concluded her high school career by placing 10th with a toss of 37-3.50.

Spesard quickly surpassed the 40-foot plateau in her freshman year at Millikin, placing first indoors and second outdoors in the respective College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) meets.

As a sophomore, she qualified for the NCAA DIII Outdoor Track and Field Championships, placing 21st with a toss of 41-10.75 (12.77 meters).

Being at a smaller school in Millikin, Spesard hasn’t shied away from higher-level competition either. She placed sixth in shotput with a toss of 41-7.25 at the Purdue Invitational on Feb. 18.

“We compete against Illinois State a lot … so we’ve faced tougher competition,” Spesard noted. “But it was nice to compete against Big 10 athletes.”

Spesard also ranks in the top 10 in three other events at Millikin. In the indoor season, she ranks fifth in weight throw with 48-2.75 (14.70 meters). In the outdoor season, she ranks fifth in hammer with 125-4 (38.20 meters) and seventh in discus with 119-0 (36.28 meters).

Spesard is excelling as a student at Millikin too, majoring in fitness and sports with a minor in nutrition. But she has recently added physical education to her academic mix.

“I could graduate early, but I’m taking more classes that will help [in PE],” Spesard said. “I’m looking to be a track coach in the future now. I want to pass along knowledge gained over the last three year that might be beneficial to somebody. Help high school kids, help others besides myself.”

In her time away from school and athletics, Spesard and her younger sister Katy — both growing up on a dairy farm — still enjoy showing their Jersey and Guernsey cows in fair competition.

“When we got a new coach, we had to go around and tell something unique about ourselves … someone spoke up and said Le Ann has cows,” Spesard laughed. “We show them at the county fair, state fair … hit national when we have a good one here and there.”

Spesard still throws during the offseason, using her own equipment throwing off a concrete pad out into a lot on their family’s farm.

“I still throw better there than I do in the meets,” Spesard quipped.

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