GoDuke Weekly l www.GoDuke.com/gdw
By A.J. Carr
Maren Sonstegard-Spray says she still dreams about rowing boats. That likely stems from her days at Duke be-
tween 1999 and 2002, when she made waves as a member of the Blue Devils’ first women’s rowing team.
Physically strong and mentally tough, Spray ar-
rived as a walk on and after one season, worked her way into the lead varsity boat. During that time she helped Duke achieve a top 20 ranking and earned a spot on the ACC’s 50th Anniversary team, which honored the best 50 athletes in each sport. A Phi-Beta Kappa student with a 3.8 grade
point average in biology, Spray also achieved na- tional rowing scholar-athlete honors three years. Not bad for somebody who grew up playing
soccer in Chantilly, Va., and had never competed on a rowing team. “I am a goal setter and I always dreamed of
being a college athlete,’’ said Spray, now a pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Winchester, Va. “I didn’t get a chance to play sports in high school. I didn’t start off fast (in crew), but loved every second of it, loved being on a team. “ Coach Robyn Horner loved having her on
the team, saying, “she was very committed, a very strong athlete, and made the transition easily.” Spray persevered, sweated, sacrificed. For ex- ample, instead of leisurely traveling abroad after her
Where Are They Now?
Where Are They Now?... Maren Sonstegard-Spray
sophomore year, she opted to stay at Duke to train, sharpen her skills, get faster and tougher. “It made a difference; I wanted to be good,’’
said Spray, whose mantra seemed to read -- row, row, row your boat rapidly down the stream...and your dream will come true. Rowing is rigorous, often more grueling than
glamorous. But Spray recalls the memorable mo- ments, highlights such as competing at The Head of The Charles in Boston three times and winning the California Cup in San Diego. “There were a bunch of reasons I wanted to
go to Duke,’’ she said. “This was icing on the cake. I loved being an athlete there; I felt I was achieving academically and keeping both in balance.”
ANSWERING THE CALL
Following graduation, Spray spent one year in
research at Duke Medical Center. But she felt a void, a longing in her heart, a restlessness in her soul. With time to think, she recalled the fulfillment
of having worked as an intern in 2002 at her home church in Centreville, Va., where she had been ac- tive as a youth. Then Spray talked with trusty mentors and was
encouraged to consider full-time ministry. She en- rolled at Princeton Theological Seminary and earned a Masters of Divinity degree. Spray described her calling from God as a “step-by-step” process. “She was a very compassionate person, good at communicating,” Horner recalled. “I can see how
that can carry over well for her now.” In 2006 Spray joined the staff at Winchester’s
First Presbyterian Church, where she is Associ- ate Pastor of Youth and Christian Nurturing. She preaches every other Sunday in addition to minis- tering to mostly middle school and high school age students and their families. Spray noted that studies reveal if adults are
committed and faithful, youth are more likely to be committed and faithful. So she attempts to match an adult mentor, in addition to family members, with each young person. In discipling and counseling the youth, she
stresses serving and social justice along with Bi- ble study, prayer and overall strong spiritual walk. Sometimes it requires moving out of the comfort zone.
“It’s giving youth the opportunity to serve, to
recognize the needs in the community, the nation and the world and respond in faithful work,’‘ she said. “It’s how to contribute more to the world. When you expect things of youth, they rise to the occa- sion.”
This summer Spray will lead them on two mis-
sion trips -- to Nicaragua, where she met her hus- band, Jeff, during a mission trip -- and to Appala- chia. It’s about applying the passage from 1 John 3:18 -- “Dear Children, let us not love with words and tongue, but with actions and in truth.”
Most of the young folks call Spray “Maren.”
She’s more than their pastor, she’s their friend, one they can relate to and confide in. “She’s a supportive person, really listens and
gives a lot of comfort,’’ said Samantha Nutter, a high school junior. “She is extremely down to earth and that’s an awesome quality to have. In Sunday School, kids tend to be more open.” A major focus of Spray’s teaching is how to
connect with God, have quiet time and develop a strong prayer life in the midst of a noisy, clamoring, computerized world. “There are different embodiments of prayer,’’
said Spray, who reminds youngsters they can pray in a variety of places and ways, “through journaling, while walking, or running, or writing or playing mu- sic. There are easy guidelines. “I’ve also found part of my job is to point out
gifts God has given them and encourage them to live them out.” At Duke, Spray utilized her gifts on campus, in
the classroom and in the water. But she didn’t stay in the boat. She answered The Call, stepped out to preach and pastor in Winchester -- and beyond.
This Week In Duke Athletic History
March 22, 1998
The women’s basketball team defeats Florida, 71-58, and advances to the program’s first Elite Eight. Nicole Erickson had 20 points and five as- sists for the Blue Devils.
March 23, 1999
The women’s basketball team defeats No. 2 Ten- nessee, 69-63, and advances to the program’s first Final Four.
March 26, 2005
Duke scores five runs in the first inning en route to an 8-7 victory over No. 17 Florida State as Duke splits the double-header with the Seminoles. Corey Whiting goes 2-for-4 with a two-run home run.
March 25, 2002
Alana Beard scores 24 points in Duke’s, 77-68, win over South Carolina. The women’s basketball team advances to the program’s second Final Four with the win.
March 28, 1992
The most famous shot in Duke basketball history comes this night as Grant Hill throws the ball the length of the court with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime where Christian Laettner catches the ball, turns and hits a 17-foot shot to give Duke a 104-103 victory and sends Duke to the Final Four.
The official online magazine of Duke Athletics
Managing Editors Contributors Design Staff Writers
Jon Jackson Matt Plizga
Ben Blevins, Lindy Brown Art Chase, Chris Cook
Meredith Rieder, John Roth Colin Small, Ashley Wolf
Chris Cook Brad Jones Matt Plizga
Lance Thomas A.J. Carr
Al Featherston Barry Jacobs Jim Sumner
Michael Tomko YUDU
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