By Kyle Daubs
This wasn’t what Makenna Wilson had expected.
After finding out she was named the 2021 Female Athlete of the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, the EIU senior was surprised.
After all, she had scored fewer points last weekend than during her sophomore campaign when she had also dominated the throwing events.
Plus, the women’s team had finished fourth.
And the award has historically not been given to throwers.
But the 2017 Charleston High School grad had an outstanding OVC Conference Championship. Wilson won the shot put, placed second in the hammer throw, third in the discus and sixth in the javelin. Her total of 27 points netted her enough points to win the award.
“I was not expecting it at all,” said Wilson. “It’s not something throwers have traditionally received. In my sophomore year, I finished with 28 points and didn’t win. It was very surprising and exciting because it felt like I accomplished something and that the day wasn’t all for nothing.” athletic career dating back to high school, you’ll know that success seems to follow her wherever she goes.
To start the competition, Wilson entered the hammer throw ranked second and finished in second. She said she changed from a three turn to a four turn, which was a big transition. In the discus, she was ranked third and finished third, but “she wasn’t too happy” with her performance.
On the final day, Wilson entered the shot put competition ranked third. Wilson cited she had been struggling with a shot put all season and played it safe on her first throw to just get a mark. Her throw got her to finals, where freshman Rebekah Stucker of Belmont was ahead of her.
“I was positioned third going into finals and saw that a freshman was above me,” said Wilson. “That same freshman beat me in the discus. I told myself no way was happening again.”
What did she do next? Wilson heaved a throw of 15.32 meters to hit a season’s best and, subsequently, win the OVC crown in the shot put.
“It’s been pretty rewarding honestly,” said Wilson. “It’s been a rough season with injuries, but I’m honored. It wouldn’t have been possible without my throwers coach Noah Castle. He has done a great job and I’m thankful for him to be here.”
Given where Wilson was during the winter, and her struggles during the season, winning the shot put may have not been the first thought in her head before entering the competition.
With the addition of COVID-19 wiping away last season, Wilson battled a wrist sprain for a month during the wintertime. She was not able to do heavy lifting or throwing. With all her training, she developed minor back problems with discs, which, she says, “flare” up from time to time.
After a bit of rest to get the inflammation down, Wilson rehabbed and was able to get back to where she needed to be, citing the great work from EIU’s athletic trainers, who “take great care of us.”
Sometimes with injuries though, the recovery is not always as rapid, but Wilson had something that separates her from the rest.
Wilson’s sophomore year was one of the best throwing seasons EIU has seen in a while. Wilson competed in all four throwing events and posted a top-five finish in each event at the OVC Championships, including winning gold in the hammer throw, silver in shot put, and bronze in the javelin.
At the OVC Championships, Wilson set a school record in the hammer. By the end of the season, Wilson had qualified for the NCAA West Regional in the hammer throw, finishing 29th at the NCAA Regional.
However, it wasn’t until the addition of Castle that really made Wilson believe she was elite.
“Before COVID happened, I had a really big outdoor season my sophomore year,” said Wilson. “Then, I ended up with a new coach and he gave us a whole new exposure to our events. It was beyond exciting knowing that I could change my form and take it farther.”
The results speak for themselves. Despite the outsider season getting canceled last year, Wilson competed in seven events during the indoor season and set a school record in the shot put with a heave of 50-9 1/4 at the OVC Indoor Conference Championships. It won her OVC First-Team honors.
“Castle is very driven and has this energy that just motivates you,” said Wilson. “He knew that I could be elite and compete at the Regional or national level. Who knows what I could have done in the past, but it’s exciting to see what I can do in the future.”
Based on Wilson’s past, her future is optimal. At CHS, Wilson placed third in the state in discus and eighth in the shot put, earning her two All-State medals. Wilson, classified as a senior, earned a 4.0 GPA this past semester but has one year remaining due to COVID eligibility rules.
She will be compete one more time.
“Coming from a small town, we weren’t always the greatest at sports during my time,” said Wilson. “In track, we won the Apollo a couple of times, but we never looked beyond the conference. What I learned from that when I got to college is that a lot of people are OK with being mediocre. I’ve always wanted to prove myself to be a very competitive person with a motto of always hating to be mediocre. I always want to prove that I can be the best.”