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Photo by Diane Cox
LaJarvia Brown competes at a track meet earlier this year.
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CHARLESTON – The trail from Wigger Track at Public School Stadium in Alton to Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium in Charleston is a long and winding road.
Yet LaJarvia Brown of Alton found the fast path in a quest for the most memorable jump of her season. Her landing spot exceeded all others in the IHSA Class 3A girls triple jump and Brown became the first AHS female trackster to win a state championship.
She soared 40 feet, 3.5 inches Friday for the best triple jump of the weekend. Brown then came back Saturday for a jump of 40-2, proving what she did Day 1 wasn’t a fluke. She was the only competitor in the three classes to exceed 40 feet and her Friday mark was fifth-best on the all-time Illinois list.
“It’s amazing what she has done,” AHS coach Terry Mitchell said of the 5-foot-2 sophomore, also sixth in the long jump at 18-2.
Astounding, too, since Brown has two more years to take aim at the all-time triple jump leap of 41-5, set in 1996. It’s also astonishing because Brown, unbeaten in the triple jump this year, didn’t start competing in the event until late last season.
“She was a sprinter and hurdler in junior high,” Mitchell said. “We had her doing the long jump last year as a freshman and late in the season, she wanted to know if she could triple jump.
“It was two weeks before the sectional meet.”
Brown said, “I wanted to try it, but I didn’t know how well I could do in it. I never thought I could be a state champion by this year. I thought I could get eighth or ninth place.”
Mitchell said Brown progressed quickly this season and when she continually out-leaped the competition, the triple jump became her best event.
“It’s my favorite now,” Brown said. “I kept getting better and better in every meet.”
A slightly sprained right ankle before the Southwestern Conference meet didn’t deter her determination. She jumped 39-0 at the Rock Island Sectional to win it and carry the best jump to the state finals.
Brown was armed with enough firepower to be the best in Illinois. All she needed to do was go out and prove it to herself.
“I was really nervous the first night (Thursday) before the preliminaries on Friday,” Brown said. “I knew I had to make it to the finals.”
Her third jump Friday, just like her third effort at Rock Island, sent her to the top of the field. Come Saturday, all she had to do was put the finishing touches on her victory.
She surpasses the 40-foot mark again and finished well ahead of runner-up Vika Marmaite (39-7) of Lemont. Cierra Pulliam (38-2.5) of Romeoville took third and Collinsville’s Karen Marshall (37-7) finished fourth. Marshall was the SWC champ.
“It’s the biggest thing that has ever happened to me in my life,” Brown said of her state title. “I worked hard this season and I was more mentally tougher than I was last year. I didn’t let anything bother me.”
Mitchell likes Brown’s approach and her attitude.
“She learns and she listens,” he said. “When you tell her something, she will do it, rather than question you.”
He added, “She stays active all the time and I think playing basketball in the winter helps her. She also plays volleyball. LaJarvia has a strong work ethic and she is a good student.”
As good as it got for Brown in the state finals, the best could be yet to come. Her bright future just got a little brighter.
“I’m going to keep working harder and try to win it again the next two years,” Brown said.