They had some of the same friends in middle school, and participated in the same student quiz bowl.
But Jen and Derek Homann wouldn't meet until high school. Even then it took some patience and persistence on Derek's part for them to become a couple.
They grew up in Omaha and attended Morton Middle School. Though they went off to different high schools — Jen to Omaha Northwest and Derek to Burke — they finally met in 2001 during their junior year through those mutual friends from Morton.
Jen and Derek discovered they had a family connection. Her grandfather and his grandmother had known each other because they grew up in the same South Omaha neighborhood and attended the same church.
The two had a lot in common, but she was dating another guy, so Derek became one of her best friends.
Both were athletic and competitive — Jen played high school soccer and Derek played football. When Jen and Derek played pingpong, each wanted to come out on top. Same was true if they kicked a soccer ball around at a park, or shot baskets.
Derek realized he was developing a crush on Jen, and finally told her.
He didn't do anything to break up her relationship with her boyfriend, but he showed how much he was interested.
Derek cheered for Jen at her soccer games, bought her presents for her birthday and talked with her for hours on the phone.
Jen was spending more time with Derek than with her boyfriend. About halfway through her senior year, Jen and her boyfriend broke up, finally giving Derek an opportunity.
Two weeks after the breakup, she and Derek started dating, and the competitiveness didn't end.
They battled each other at foosball and online games. Jen usually won.
Jen headed off to Drake University in Des Moines and Derek enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They kept their relationship going through emails, phone calls and visits.
A year later, Jen transferred to UNO, and their relationship grew even stronger.
On June 6, 2009, they were married at Omaha's Magnolia Hotel, and now they have a little boy named Nolan, who just turned 1.
Jen says she's glad Derek, the guy who started out as just a buddy, never gave up on her back in high school.
“I'm glad he was still there when I was ready,'' she says.
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