Venessa D’Arpino has had record-setting careers at both North Valley High School and Oregon State, and in her two short years since transferring to Oregon, she’s twice been an all-American and once a national champion for the Ducks.

But two weeks ago, what almost brought tears to the eyes of the fifth-year senior sprinter, was earning her first career individual event qualifier for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship meet when she placed fifth in the women’s 400-meter quarterfinals at the NCAA West Preliminaries on May 24.

“I wanted to cry,” D’Arpino said. “That was my first reaction, then I looked over to my right and I saw my teammates jumping up and down for me. It was really exciting.”

And a long time coming for the Grants Pass native, who has overcome more injuries and medical issues than she cared to list en route to a fully healthy final couple seasons and now a spot in the national championship meet, which takes place Wednesday through Saturday in Austin, Texas.

“I think I knew it was in me I just didn’t know how to tap into it,” said D’Arpino, who ran a personal-best time of 52.22 seconds in the quarterfinals, joining teammates Briyahna DesRosiers and Hannah Waller in the NCAA semifinals on Thursday. “I think I found a way of channeling my energy in a positive way, instead of getting nervous and not believing in myself. I just decided, ‘I can do this'.”

D’Arpino and her twin sister Kerissa — also a redshirt senior at Oregon — were a dynamic duo for the Knights during their prep days at North Valley.

Venessa D’Arpino overcame a broken ankle as a junior and a collapsed lung as a senior to win four individual state championships in her final two seasons. She holds OSAA Class 4A state meet records in the 200 (24.11) and 400 (54.68), and when she graduated in 2014, she was ranked fourth all-time in the state with a 200 PR of 24.11 and was fifth in the 400 at 54.68.

Kerissa D’Arpino was also a two-time individual champion and is the state meet record-holder in the 100 (11.94). She is ranked seventh all-time in the 200 at 24.39.

The two had a chance to come to Oregon right out of high school but turned down the Ducks for a better financial package offered by Oregon State and spent three years in Corvallis.

Venessa D’Arpino broke three vertebrae in her back as a freshman in 2015 but came back to set school records in the 100 (11.70), 200 (23.60) and 400 (54.14). Kerissa D’Arpino is second all-time at OSU in the 100 (11.77), fourth in the 200 (24.25) and fifth in the 400 (56.44).

By the end of 2017, both wanted a change. Specifically, both wanted another shot with the Ducks.

“At Oregon State I think we ended up having seven different coaches in the three years I was there and we were promised a lot of things that didn’t happen,” D’Arpino said. “Asking for my release was the easy part. But coming to talk to (Oregon coach Robert) Johnson, I was nervous because I thought it could be ‘You turned us down before so you’re not coming here now.’”

Johnson laughed when he heard how nervous D’Arpino was when they met to discuss a transfer.

“I tease her about that all the time,” he said. “We recruited those girls out of high school and it was one of those things where it was a purely financial decision. I feel like they wanted to be here originally and it just didn’t work out.

“When they reached out I was like, ‘Hey, this is how we do business, this is what our formula is and if you guys are willing to accept that and do that, then we would love to have you.’”

Venessa D’Arpino has thrived at Oregon, putting together back-to-back healthy seasons. She helped the Ducks win a national title in the distance medley relay in 2018 during her final season of indoor eligibility. During the outdoor season, she was a member of the 4x400 team that placed third as she earned all-American status for the second time.

“I wish I would’ve made the transition sooner,” she said. “I think three years would’ve made a big difference vs. two years being here.”

This week, along with her spot in the 400, D’Arpino will also compete in the 4x100 and 4x400 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

In the 4x100, she expects to be joined by her sister, who was on the NCAA West Preliminary qualifying team that ran 43.59 to get to Austin, with Kerissa D’Arpino running the first leg and Venessa taking the second leg.

Kerissa D’Arpino suffered a devastating quadriceps injury after arriving at Oregon and missed all of 2018. Getting the chance to team up on a relay this year has been a thrill, Venessa D’Arpino said.

“For her to even be running was like, ‘Yay!’” D’Arpino said. “The (4x100 lineup) changed every week so by the time I found out it was going to be my sister running to me the last few weekends, it was a super special senior moment and we look forward to doing again.”