Catherine Jakich's evolution as a thrower for the Granite City girls' track and field team has paid off.
Jakich recently inked a letter of intent to compete at the Division I level as a thrower for the SIUE Cougars. It keeps Jakich close to home and gives her a chance to perform at a burgeoning D-I institution. She believes it's a perfect fit.
“When I took my visit to SIUE I knew that's where I wanted to go,” Jakich said. “Coach (Scott) Block is an amazing (throws) coach, I know from past people who have thrown there for him and the success he's had as a thrower and a coach. I think the opportunity is amazing and Division I has always been a dream for me, so it's definitely a goal accomplished for me.”
Jakich is stoked to be able to stay close to home and close to her family and friends, too.
“That was definitely a big part of recruiting,” Jakich said. “I talked to some other schools that were further away and I knew in my heart I wanted to be close to my family. They've been the biggest support I've had my whole life. They've given me the best opportunities and that's why I'm here today.”
Her evolution as a thrower is the main reason why she's in the position she's in though. Jakich is coming off a third-place finish in the shot put at the Class 3A state meet. She tossed it 41 feet, 8.75 inches. That is her personal best throw and it came on her third and final one of the state preliminaries. It was second best following prelims and carried over to third in the finals.
“I had talked to SIUE a little bit before the season started, but I talked to Eastern Illinois awhile for track and for rugby,” Jakich said. “I was going to pick up a new sport, but after I went to Eastern coach Block and I crossed paths and he came to the (Madison) County Meet and I hit a big PR my last throw and won county. After that he started talking to me a lot more and then when he came to state, I was definitely not going to get in the finals and then my third throw I hit another PR and I think right then and there he was ready to talk to me. State was the biggest, 'Here you go, we're going to offer you something.'”
Jakich owes her throwing prowess to Granite City throws coach Jake Janek. He's been a huge influence and she believes her potential is through the roof.
“When I was at SIUE coach Block said, 'Technically you've only thrown eight months in high school,' because I don't do summer track. I was always focused on basketball until this year,” Jakich said. “When he said that I thought to myself, 'There is definitely a lot more in me.' To have only thrown eight months in four years it shows hopefully you can expect a lot more.
“Coach Janek has been wonderful. He's supported me in everything. He's helped me get stronger and helped me as a thrower and a person. I think freshman year my PR was 29-0 (shot put), so I've definitely grown as a thrower in the last four years so I'm excited and my credit goes to coach Janek.”
Outside of the shot and discus, which Jakich performed in high school, she will add the hammer throw to her repertoire as a Cougar.
She is committing herself to track and field to be the best thrower she can be at SIUE. In doing that, she's giving up the other sport she's dedicated herself to — basketball. Jakich led the Warriors with 13.7 points per game during her senior campaign. It won't be easy to turn the page on her hoops career, but she knows her future is in track and field.
“It hasn't hit me yet, but I think it will be OK,” Jakich said of moving on from basketball. “Last season was kind of rough, so maybe it was a good thing. I've learned to accept it that it's done and over with. It's been my love and I've done it forever. I did AAU for six years so it was hard, but track is definitely where my heart is at and I think I can do a lot more with track than I could have with basketball.”
She'll miss being a Warrior, too.
“Everything,” she said. “The coaches here are amazing, the administrative staff, the support I've had from everyone has been incredible since the moment I got here. I went to Marquette my first semester and then I came here... If I didn't go here I wouldn't be sitting here, so I'm grateful for everything they've done for me.”
Jakich plans to major in sociology with a minor in criminal justice.