Nebraska boys athlete of the year Cam Jurgens, Beatrice junior and Husker commit, remains humble despite prowess
Cam Jurgens hadn’t been pushed like this all season in the discus circle. The Beatrice junior was going back and forth with a fellow future Division I football player in crummy conditions at the state track and field meet.
His best throw had been ahead of Brett Kitrell, the Ohio signee from Ashland-Greenwood. That was until Kitrell’s last throw traveled 177 feet, 3 inches to take the lead in Class B and for the all-class gold medal.
“I knew I could do it, I knew I had to do it. I didn’t want to question myself,’’ Jurgens reflected. “I tried to stay as calm as I could. I’m sure people were worrying I wouldn’t win, like my mom who was nervous and everything, but I knew I was going to get a throw out there.
“I have to be confident in myself.”
That last try, the one that flew 183-5 for the gold, shows the competitive side of the new World-Herald Nebraska high school boys athlete of the year.
A couple of weeks ago, Beatrice attended a Creighton team camp for boys basketball. Jurgens wasn’t there. The Nebraska football pledge was at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Indianapolis, a competition for the nation’s elite high school football players.
“I love going to the summer stuff with the guys,’’ he said. “It was tough to miss it.”
His basketball coach, Tyler Struck, said coaches at the CU camp commented on what a nice kid Jurgens was and asked how his football recruitment was going.
“When Cam came back, he said his camp had been so much fun and a great experience, but it would have been so much fun being at team camp,” Struck said.
That’s the considerate side of Cam Jurgens.
He’s the first athlete of the year from Beatrice since Bob Hohn in 1960. He’s also only the fourth junior honored in 67 years, following Gerry Gdowski of Fremont in 1985, Leodis Flowers of Omaha Central in 1986 and Ron Coleman of Omaha North in 2009.
Jurgens had strong competition this year, starting with Noah Vedral. The three-sport standout for Wahoo Neumann signed with Central Florida for football.
Other finalists were Austin Schultz of Norris, Grant Bruner of Gretna, Seth Hirsch of Millard West and Evan Chohon of Columbus Scotus. Schultz also is a junior.
“With all the athletes around the state, to win as a junior is awesome and humbling,” he said.
Jurgens, who’s 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, repeated as a double gold medalist in the throws at the state meet. He was also the Class B discus champion as a freshman.
He made the All-Nebraska football team as a linebacker, the second straight year he was on the Class B all-state team.
After a slow start in basketball following a football injury, he averaged 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Asked to pinpoint the highlights of his year, “Nothing on the field,” Jurgens said. “It was spending time with my teammates. That’s what I will think about looking back, the memories with all my brothers on the football field, my basketball family and the track people.”
His coaches — Struck, Kevin Meyer in football and Karen Schlueter in track and field — marvel at his humility, the way he’s handled the acclaim surrounding his status as a Husker recruit and how he’s deferred leadership positions to older teammates.
“He understands the big picture,” Meyer said.
“A very humble athlete,” Schlueter said. “He got the male field-event award at the Nebraska Track and Field Festival and when I mentioned it to the entire team, the first thing out of his mouth was ‘Go Beatrice!’ He said later, ‘I wasn’t representing myself, but representing Beatrice.’ ”
Jurgens is the youngest of Ted and Beth Jurgens’ three children. The former Beth Stuart is in the UNK athletic hall of fame. She set the state high school record in the discus, since broken, of 160-8 in 1983 while at Holdrege and coaches her son in the discus. Ted played football at Beatrice.
The Jurgens live on a farm near Pickrell, a hamlet of about 10 miles north of Beatrice.
“On a farm, I definitely got strong as a kid,’’ Cam said. “I didn’t play a lot of video games. A lot I attribute to Dad. He didn’t raise me as a lazy kid.”
He ran the gamut of youth sports — baseball, soccer, flag football, basketball and wrestling. Of his three high school sports, track and field is the most seasonal. Summers have been a balancing act between football and basketball.
Jurgens said he got a lot out of the Rivals camp.
“Seeing all the guys out there, everybody is a really good athlete,” he said. “It was competitive. You got to see where you’re at and I think I’m good if not better than many of them. Being from the Midwest, we don’t have some of that talent.”
Meyer said Jurgens will take on more leadership duties this fall. He’ll be making the defensive calls and checks after being “gracious enough” to those seniors last year who had put in their time.
On the field, he’s going to be moved around a lot on offense and defense, too, to confound opponents intent on keying in on him.
“We definitely need to give him the ball in a variety of ways,” Meyer said. “He gets a lot of attention, which opens up other and is good for our offense. He’s a dominant blocker at the point of attack.”
In basketball, Struck said already last season he considered Jurgens among the top inside players in Class B, many of whom have now graduated.
“There still will be a couple left, but I see him being one of the premier big men,’’ Struck said. “I’m a big proponent of inside-out ball and clearly he’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Struck said Jurgens has never put his sport on the back burner. He’ll be with the Orangemen cagers next week at a camp in Denver.
Jurgens hasn’t set numerical goals for anything but track, saying his desires for football and basketball are for the Orangemen to go deep into the postseason.
Next spring, he wants to hit 65 feet in the shot put and 200 in the discus. His bests this season, both in districts, were 62-10 and 191-10, respectively, after he went onto the all-time charts as a sophomore with marks of 63-3 (seventh) and 196-8 (eighth) at the state meet.
“I’ve done it,’’ he said. “I just have to do it in competition.”
Jurgens is strong with his pledge to the Huskers but said he’ll likely take a couple official visits during the football season.
“I’d like to go see LSU and UCLA,” he said. “But I’m verbally committed to Nebraska.”