Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton junior LaJarvia Brown leaps for the sand pit during long jump competition at the Southwestern Illinois Relay in Edwardsville on March 28. Brown, the defending Class 3A state champ in the triple jump, is compiling another storybook season.
The Legend of LaJarvia Brown continues to grow. It’s beginning to reach folklore status for the talented Alton High female track and field athlete.
“She can do it all,” Redbirds’ assistant coach Bobby Everage said. “She’s a firecracker.”
Brown, a 5-foot-3, 120-pound junior, is igniting more fireworks after winning the IHSA Class 3A girls’ triple jump state title this past May in Charleston. She leaped an all-time state best 41 feet, 6.25 inches on April 15 in the Tiger Relays at Edwardsville.
It’s the longest recorded IHSA triple jump in 42 years of statewide competition. That puts Brown in a league of her own.
“I didn’t know I got the state record,” Brown said after her joyful jump. “It felt smooth and now I want to build on it. I want to get out there as far as I can before I leave high school.”
She still has half of this season and her senior year ahead of her. So there’s no telling what Brown can accomplish. She has leaped 19-4 in the long jump this spring and could be among the state contenders in that event.
And she’s learning to excel in the 300-meter low hurdles. Brown has run them in 44.6 seconds and expects to reduce that time.
“She’s amazing,” Alton head coach Terry Mitchell said. “I think she has more strength and speed than she had last year and she also has the experience of doing it and winning at state.”
When Brown finished first in last year’s triple jump at 40-3.5, she became the first AHS female track athlete to capture a state championship. The last guy to do it was Larry Perry in the 1975 long jump.
Now, Brown has an opportunity to do something only Perry and pole vaulter John Enos have achieved — back-to-back individual state titles. Perry also finished first in the 1974 long jump. Enos won the pole vault in 1907-08.
In addition, since Brown is a state contender in the long jump and 300 low hurdles, she could celebrate another accomplishment — multiple individual Illinois titles in one season.
The lone AHS track athlete to accomplish that feat was B.B. Gater, the 1960 state champ in both the 100-yard dash and the 220.
That’s fast company for Brown, sixth in the 2014 long jump. Jessica Stockard of the Redbirds finished second in the state long jump and fourth in the 200-meters during the 2002 season.
Freshman high jumper Katie Mans marvels at Brown’s work ethic and her drive to succeed.
“She’s a great athlete and has an amazing spring in her legs,” said Mans, an AHS athlete with plenty of promise. “What she has done has rubbed off on me and made me a better athlete.”
Mitchell said it’s not just what Brown does — it’s also how she does it. There’s no shortcuts for her and she remains focused on what she needs to do.
“She reminds me a little bit of Bo Scott,” he said of the former standout Redbird, a 1972 state champion in the long jump. “And she also reminds me of Oscar Wallace because he was really competitive.”
Wallace won the state long jump title in 1969 and finished second to teammate Avery Wallace in 1968.
“LaJarvia is very competitive, too,” Mitchell said. “She hates to lose. The other thing about her is that she’s very versatile. We’ve tried her in some other events.”
Whether it’s running on a relay, or taking her best shot in the 100-meters or 200-meters, Brown is willing to give it a go. She’d compete in the 100-meter high hurdles if it would benefit the Birds.
“She can do about anything,” Mitchell said.
Everage agrees. “She reminds me of Gale Murphy the way she can go from one event to another one so smoothly,” he said.
Murphy excelled in dashes, jumps and hurdles for the Redbirds from 1969-71. AHS snared team titles in 1963, 1964 and 1969. From 1960-72, the Birds finished in the top four teams at state 10 times.
Thus, Brown is reviving some of that forgotten Alton track heritage. She is doing it her way in a quest to be the best. Again.
“I’m stronger this season. I can definitely tell that,” said Brown, also the top scorer on the Redbirds’ basketball team. “My goal is to just get better every day.”
She’s drawing interest from college recruiters, yet Brown indicated she’s nowhere near a decision on that front.
“I have no clue yet where I want to go to college, but I’m keeping my options open,” she said.
Mostly, she’s keeping her eyes on the state prize. She knows the way to Eastern Illinois University and understands the state finals routine at O’Brien Stadium.
“When we started this season, my ultimate goal was to jump 42 feet in the triple jump. I’m going to have to change that and push it back,” Brown said.
Mitchell chuckled at that thought. “We may have to reset that (distance) again,” he said.
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