Photo by Diane Cox
Alton High School senior Jewel Wagner signed with Murray State University on May 11 to continue her career as a thrower. Present at the AHS signing ceremony were (from left) mother Debra Wagner, Jewel Wagner, father Albert Wagner and AHS girls’ track and field head coach Terry Mitchell.
GODFREY — Jewel Wagner of Alton High lists multiple reasons why she chose Murray State, Ky., to continue her track and field career.
“I like the location, the campus is beautiful and it’s close to home,” the 5-foot-10 senior said about Murray State. She officially joined the Racers on May 11 during a signing ceremony at AHS.
Murray State is Division I and competes in the 12-school, Ohio Valley Conference, which includes SIUE. Brentwood, Tenn., near Nashville, serves as headquarters for the 68-year-old league.
“It’s a great feeling and one of the best days of my life,” Wagner said after officially committing to Murray State. She also weighed offers from Wayne State in Detroit and Illinois College in Jacksonville. Wagner plans to major in biology or athletic training at Murray State.
The Racers recruited Wagner to throw the shot, javelin and hammer. She has already shown what’s possible in the shot. Wagner holds the Alton High school record of 41 feet, 8 inches. In 2015, she finished sixth in the Class 3A IHSA finals with a heave of 40-9.75.
“I want to throw the shot farther — 42 or 43 feet — and finish in the top three at state,” Wagner said. She might be in the thick of things at state following her third-place finish in the Rock Island Sectional. She threw the shot 38-9. Teammate Chayvon Buckingham was second at 39-9. Evangeline Harris of East St. Louis won it with a heave of 42-3.
Coach Terry Mitchell noted, “Jewel is having a great season and she went into the sectional as the No. 2 seed. She has been consistent during her four years for us and she has always worked hard.
“She’s very dependable and deserving of what she has achieved.”
Those accomplishments include six top three finishes thus far in major meets, including wins in the Southwestern Illinois Relays at Edwardsville and Hazelwood, Mo., Central Invitational. Wagner also has recorded seconds in her specialty event at the Madison County Meet, the Belleville West Invitational and the Southwestern Conference Meet. Both the MadCo and SWC affairs were in Edwardsville.
Two-time Class 3A IHSA champion LaJarvia Brown said Wagner brings a lot to the track team, just as she did to the basketball squad. Wagner averaged a team-best 8.8 rebounds and was second in scoring to Brown at 7.8 points for the basketball Birds. Wagner also was nominated for the Alton Exchange Club’s 110 percent player award.
“She’s outgoing and a hard worker,” Brown said of Wagner. “She doesn’t have to be motivated. She’s very supportive and encouraging.”
Alton girls’ basketball coach Bob Rickman can vouch for that. Wagner provided the Birds with an inside presence. Brown, averaging 16 ppg, was their main threat.
“Jewel has been a tremendous athlete for Alton in both track and basketball,” Rickman said. “The special thing about Jewel is how she developed as a basketball player.
Rickman added, “The one thing I will remember about Jewel is her competitive nature. She hated to lose and that’s a trait that will carry her a long way in life.”
Wagner’s first sports love might be basketball, though track has caught her fancy and she embraces the competition. Alton assistant track coach Bobby Everage had something to do with that.
“Coach Everage pushed and pushed me to give track a try,” Wagner said. “The individual part of track is exciting, but in the end, it’s all about the team.”
And the Redbirds intend to represent themselves properly in this weekend’s large-school IHSA finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Competition starts Friday and concludes Saturday.
Alton scored 24.5 points last year to finish eighth, its best state showing in school history. Two-time state triple jump champion LaJarvia Brown will lead them. She’s eyeing another win in the triple jump after finishing first in that event in the Rock Island Sectional. Brown also won the long jump, the 100-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter low hurdles at Rock Island. Teammate Katie Mans was best in the high jump.
“I’m optimistic about this year and I like our chances,” Mitchell said, eyeing a loftier finish. “We’re hoping to do some great things and make the city proud.”
There’s little doubt that Wagner will pitch in her best effort to keep the Redbirds flying high.
“Our team is getting in position to have the best finish we’ve ever had at state and I expect Jewel to place higher than she did last year,” Mitchell said.
If so, it could be a fitting finish for the Redbird soon to be a Racer.
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