CHARLESTON — When the high school track season began last spring, Charleston's Makenna Wilson already knew what she was going to do after her senior year. She was set on starting classes at Lake Land College, which many of her other family members have done in the past. Her athletic career would be over, and going to Lake Land allowed her to stay close to home.
But as sectionals started to roll around, Wilson started to have a change of heart. She was in the middle of a successful season throwing the discus and shot put for Charleston and didn't want her track and field career to end after the Class 2A state track and field meet, so she sent an email to the throws coach for the Eastern Illinois University women's track and field team, Jessica Sommerfeld.
The interest was mutual. The two knew each other since Wilson attended Sommerfeld's throwing camps in the past. EIU's season ended in time for Sommerfeld to see Wilson throw at state, and the Charleston senior put on a good show. Wilson finished in eighth place in the shot put with a toss of 39 feet, 10 inches, and she finished in third place in the discus in 2A with a throw of 124-9.
Sommerfeld was sold on Wilson's talent and offered her a scholarship to throw for EIU.
"I'm very excited. I thought my athletic career was over and I got the chance to come throw for EIU and that was awesome," Wilson said. "I got a scholarship and I am on the team and enjoying practices and I am having a great time already. Big shout-out to my family for supporting me throughout the way and shout-out to my teammates for being helpful and shout-out to my new coach."
Wilson said EIU is the perfect fit to continue her athletic career.
"For about a little over six years I've been in sports nonstop, and thinking of it coming to an end was upsetting and it opened my eyes that I didn't want to be done yet," Wilson said. "It's great being close to home, and I'm blessed with the opportunity to get some scholarship money to support me through the years."
Wilson joins a successful EIU women's track and field program. The Panthers won the Ohio Valley Conference outdoor meet the last two years and won the title eight times since 2007. EIU also won the OVC indoor track and field title last season and have won seven indoor titles since 2007.
Sommerfeld joined EIU's staff in 2008 and has coached 23 OVC champions, and eight athletes advanced to the NCAA Regional during the outdoor season.
Wilson has been on campus for two weeks now and is enjoying the new routine with her coach and teammates.
"They definitely have a good past," Wilson said. "We've just been putting in a lot of work in the weight room and I am loving the coaches and athletes, and the strength and conditioning coach is awesome. He helps us put the work in."
There are some new things Wilson has to learn. There's no hammer throw, weight throw or javelin in high school, so Wilson has to learn all three events. She's started to get the hang of the hammer throw, but hasn't thrown the other two yet.
"I actually just tried the hammer throw for the first time this week," Wilson said. "It seems fun; it's going to be hard to get the hang of it, but I am sure I can get the hang of it with my teammates' and coaches' help. I am very excited to try some new stuff."
Wilson has some time to wait until EIU's first indoor meet, which is the EIU Early Bird on Dec. 9. Still, Wilson is ready for the season to get underway.
"I am excited for the season for sure," Wilson said. "I want to PR and help the team as much as I can this year. I want to be a good contributor to the team."