COQUILLE — This time next year, McKenna Wilson and Heather Marshall will be track and field teammates at Umpqua Community College.
First they will finish their careers at Coquille High School at this week’s Class 3A state track meet, with Marshall leaving as a school record holder and Wilson as perhaps the most successful team sport athlete in school history.
The state meet starts Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, and the two will be looking to add to the impressive track resumes they have built up for the Red Devils.
Marshall placed eighth in the shot put as a freshman with a throw of 34 feet, one quarter inch. She jumped up to fourth place as a sophomore with an effort of 36-10 ¾.
Then came a pivotal junior year, when Marshall missed the state meet, placing third at the district meet, an outcome that provided extra motivation this spring.
“I would say I hit my sophomore slump junior year,” Marshall said.
This year, she routinely hit 37 or 38 feet in meets, but had her big moment Saturday during the Mountain Valley Conference district meet at Pleasant Hill, uncorking a throw of 40 feet, 4 ½ inches — the day after signing her letter of intent to compete for Umpqua.
“It made me feel really good proving I can do it,” she said.
In addition to breaking the 40-foot barrier for the first time, she broke Allison Cook’s school record of 39-4 ½.
“That was definitely the highlight,” Marshall said.
It was made even sweeter because Cook has been giving Marshall tips since meeting her during Marshall’s freshman year, when Cook was competing for Western Oregon University.
“When we first started talking, she said she wanted to coach the girl to break her record,” Marshall said.
Marshall has been a shot put specialist for Coquille, also competing in the discus but never advancing to state in that event.
Wilson, on the other hand, has stood out in multiple events.
She is a three-time state placer in the high jump, improving each year. She finished eighth as a freshman (4-6), sixth as a sophomore (4-10) and fourth last spring (5-0). She also was part of the fifth-place 4x100 relay her freshman year and part of the group that placed fourth when she was a sophomore.
Wilson was eighth in the 100 as a freshman and fifth in the 200 and seventh in the 300 hurdles last year.
She competes in the 200 and high jump this week, and likely also would have been in the long jump if she hadn’t caught a cold right before the district meet — she was ranked third in Class 3A for that event.
Wilson hopes to add to her collection of medals this week, but is taking a different attitude into her final high school event.
“I’m going into it wanting to have fun,” she said. “Last year was probably the most stressful (state meet) I had because I had two events back-to-back.
“I’m excited just to do my thing and have time to watch and relax and cheer on my other teammates.”
Wilson also looks forward to cheering for her two cousins, Monroe stars Kyndal and Kailey Martin — something she wasn’t able to do last year.
While Wilson certainly has had a successful track career, she also will be remembered as a key player on some of the most successful teams in school history.
Wilson was a regular in the rotation on volleyball teams that placed at state all four years of her high school career, including a team-best third place last fall.
“That was the best way to end my senior year,” Wilson said of her high school volleyball career. She earned all-league and all-state honors after helping the Red Devils to their first league title in the sport in the Mountain Valley Conference.
Wilson also was a starter on the basketball teams that placed fifth, fifth and fourth in the state tournament the past three years. And last year’s track team placed third at state, making her a part of eight trophy teams during her career.
“During the moment, I didn’t think it was that cool,” she said of the team success earlier in her career. “Now as a senior, looking back, it’s cool that you did that.”
Now she’s looking forward to continuing as an athlete in both volleyball and track and field at Umpqua.
Next year is the first that the Riverhawks will field a track program and the school reached out to Marshall.
Wilson had just planned to play volleyball, but Umpqua’s coach encouraged her to reach out to the track coach as well. And she’s looking forward to that.
Earlier this year, she was leaning toward attending Texas A&M to study business, but she reconsidered.
“I wouldn’t have a chance to do sports there,” she said of the Texas school. “Umpqua is closer to home and I get to continue sports. I’ve already started missing high school sports.”
Both look forward to helping build a new program after high school.
“I’m excited to move on to Umpqua, especially since I will have McKenna as a teammate,” Marshall said.