COQUILLE —Just as McKenna Wilson was getting really excited about her future in track and field, her sophomore track season at Umpqua Community College ended almost before it began, like all other college sports around the country.
The Coquille High School graduate was training for the first time to be a heptathlete, but only got one rainy and cold meet that didn’t include the multi-event competition before everything else was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Wilson has more, hopefully sunny, competitions to look forward to after signing a letter of intent to compete in track and field for Southern Oregon University.
“I am super, super excited,” she said. “It is kind of the perfect match for me.”
Wilson had planned to enter the business program at the University of Oregon, but after her sophomore volleyball season for the Riverhawks, she started working toward the heptathlon.
“I got super excited to do the multi, but then I never got a chance to do it,” she said.
But she started talking with the coaches at Southern Oregon and the more she learned, the more she liked.
“Southern has a really good accounting program, which I am super excited about,” she said. “Athletics and school are (both) very exciting to me, so I am not going to school just for athletics.”
And she got more excited when she learned her future coach at Southern Oregon was a decathlete.
“So he has a soft spot for multis,” she said. “He understand. He really made it seem like he tries to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Each athlete has a different event they should be working on.
“It’s very personalized.”
At Coquille, Wilson was a standout in volleyball, basketball and track and field. At Umpqua, she kept going in volleyball and track and field. Now her focus will be just in track, where she is a natural for several of the events in the heptathlon.
At Coquille, she was a six-time individual placer at the state meet, as well as twice placing in the 4x100 relay. She had high-school bests of 13.18 seconds in the 100, 26.75 in the 200, 49.10 in the 300 hurdles, 5 feet, 1 inch in the high jump and 16-3 in the long jump.
Her best state places were fourth in the high jump and fifth in the 200 her junior year, when she also was sixth in the hurdles and helped Coquille to third in the team race. But her chances to be a four-time state placer in the high jump were cut short when she became ill right before the district meet her senior year. She qualified for state in the high jump and 200 (and just missed in the long jump), but she just missed placing in both events at state.
Right after the volleyball season ended last fall, she started “working on everything” as she set her sites toward the heptathlon.
“Each day I did a different event,” she said. “My throwing was definitely the hardest for me. I’ve been a runner and jumper my entire life.”
Her two completely new events, the javelin and shot put, both come with a learning curve.
“It’s really hard, too, being a volleyball player, because I got really bad habits,” she said. “I messed up my elbow for a couple weeks because I was trying to hit the javelin instead of throwing it.”
Everything was headed in the right direction, she said.
“Even though I hated the hurdles, I was getting it down,” she said.
Then the season ended early, part of a particularly hard month for Wilson, made more difficult when her dad, Dean, died after a battle with cancer.
Signing with Southern Oregon has given Wilson something positive and something to look forward to as she adjusts to learning how to take her final Umpqua classes on-line.
She’s looking forward to her schoolwork in Ashland and her future in accounting.
“I’m all about the numbers,” she said.
And she’s looking forward to competing for the Raiders.
“I’m super excited,” she said.