Early in what passed for spring this spring, Danielle Ayers- Stamper returned to her old stomping grounds.
The former three-sport star for LaCrosse- Washtucna was at track practice, where little brother Darcy made sure she was known – and sufficiently embarrassed – by a new generation.
She was taken back – but at least not blown away – by the wind and the small town track that launched her career.
It’s a far cry from life in Southern California she enjoys now as fitness model Danielle Halverson.
“Everyone is excited to see you because in a small town everyone is excited to see you,” she said. “It was fun to go out to the track again. I couldn’t believe that is the track I trained on, the pit I jumped in.”
Halverson did that quite well. She was a four-time State B champion in both the 100-meter hurdles and long jump, setting state meet records in both (14.88-seconds, 18-feet, 9½-inches) her junior year.
With those marks, which would place her among the elite in the Greater Spokane League, let along a cinder-track girl from LaCrosse, she graduated in 2002 and went on to Seattle Pacific as a heptathlete.
With the Falcons, she was a three-time All-American and is in their record book at No. 2 in the hurdles (13.70) and heptathlon (5,640 points) and fourth in the long jump (19-6¼).
But after three years, she followed her coach to Cal Poly for a chance to compete at the Division I level that was hampered by constant injuries.
She graduated in 2007 with a degree in kinesiology but continued to high jump (reaching 5-10) until her coach’s wife suggested she try fitness modeling. Halverson went to Los Angeles, walked into an agency and embarked on a life-changing path.
Most importantly, while with her sister, she bumped in an old acquaintance from San Luis Obispo, volleyball player Braidy Halverson. They married Jan. 31, 2009 and live in Redondo Beach where he is a high school chemistry teacher and professional beach volleyball player.
Meanwhile, she got a career going. She started as a personal trainer but has since moved to the early shift at the front desk so she can get to auditions.
Her highest profile job landed her on the cover of “Runner’s World.”
“That got my face out there,” Halverson explained. “They like to use real athletes; they’re particular about it. … They make a story out of you. I felt really grateful they wanted to use me.
“Doing stuff like that helps keep me motivated. I like being a good example. It helps me to keep doing what I’m doing. When I hear from people … they tell me I motivate them but they are also motivating me. I enjoy that a lot.”
She has done some Nike videos and print ads for Under Armor and Pink Top.
“Most of the jobs I’ve had are for running,” she said. “That’s great, that’s who I am, what I do. I get to be me. When they have casting for fit women, you never know what they’re looking for. Most of the time they know what they’re looking for, a high jumper, a runner, a hurdler.”
The small city girl is amazed.
“It’s definitely not something I thought I would ever do,” Halverson said.
“I just kind of slipped into it. It’s been fun. I enjoy it in the sense I get to be me, I still run, I still work out and I get paid to do it.
“But it’s not like you’re salaried. It just slowly gets better. As you work more, people see you and think she must be good because she’s working. I go to auditions three or four times a week.”
In between she plays volleyball with her husband.
“I played indoor volleyball, but beach volleyball is so different,” she said. “It’s what all our friends do. It’s fun.”
It sounds like she has found a home.
“I definitely feel like I belong in California,” she said. “It’s funny. It’s totally different from the small town I grew up in. I think we’ll stay. Beach life has grown on me.”