While her collegiate track and field career might not had gone the way she had envisioned, Atkinson’s Megan Wyffels faced each challenge that was thrown her way head on and with no regrets.
“I have always been a person who enjoyed athletics, especially track, because I always found a place on the team,” said Wyffels. “When I got to college, pole vault wasn’t working out so I went to the javelin.”
Wyffels, a 2009 Geneseo High School graduate, competed in the pole vault and javelin for the Western Illinois University women’s track and field team for four years.
“I really enjoyed the javelin and there were no girls on the team doing it so I got a lot of one-on-one attention,” said Wyffels. “And I loved my throws coach.”
Wyffels walked on to the Division I AA squad, and knew going in she was never going to be the star, but felt like she could contribute to the team.
In her freshman season, Wyffels placed fourth in the pole vault at the Jack Jennett Indoor Invite with a final height of 8 1/2.
“My freshman year was really frustrating, and I didn’t get along with my coach,” she said. “I had really high standards of coaches from high school with Mel Snook, who was a great coach, and the WIU coaches had different philosophies, so I spent a lot of the year changing poles in the pole vault. I had an awful season.”
After having a difficult first season, Wyffels stuck with it, didn’t just walk away and found a new focus in the javelin.
“My friends on the team were worth (dealing) with the bad coaching,” said Wyffels of why she didn’t quit. “We had a new coaching staff my sophomore year, so everyone was new except the vault coach, which then pushed me into focusing on the javelin.”
In her sophomore year, Wyffels placed in the pole vault in four meets in the indoor season — 11th at 9 1/4, third at 9-0, fifth at 9 1/4 and 10th at 8-6 1/4 at the indoor league championships.
During the outdoor season, Wyffels nabbed two second-place finishes at the Knox College Invite in the javelin with a throw of 89-2 and at the Monmouth Midweek Invite in the javelin at 92-0. Other finishes included: fourth, pole vault, 8-7; 12th javelin, 87-8; fourth, pole vault, 9 1/4; seventh, javelin, 99-6; sixth, pole vault, 9-1; 20th, javelin, 98-1; sixth, javelin, 95-8; and 11th at the league championships in the javelin at 98-7.
“(My sophomore year) was different because my coach paid more attention to me, and then, at conference time, I had to pick between the javelin and pole vault because the events were held at the same time, so that is when I made the switch to full-time javelin,” she said. “I enjoyed the training because there was more of an emphasis on lifting, and I finished 11th at the conference meet, which was my best finish.”
Page 2 of 3 - During her junior season, she grabbed a first-place finish in the javelin at the Knox Outdoor Invite with a throw of 103-4; followed by second at the Gateway Classic of 109-3.
She also took fifth in the javelin at 93-6; fourth at 105-0; eighth at 103-10; fourth at 104-11; and 12th at the league championships at 102-11.
“I enjoyed this year,” she said. “I had good friends who were javelin throwers, and we did a lot of lifting, which I really enjoyed.”
Wyffels, who could have graduated in December 2012 but stuck around to see what she could make of her senior year of track, didn’t close out her final season with the squad the way she had hoped due to an injury she sustained in the first meet, however, she was able to compete in a few meets.
In her four meets during her senior season, she took second at the Lee Calhoun Invite with a throw of 108-11; fifth at the Gateway Invite at 94-5; ninth at the SIU Spring Classic at 99-6; and 14th at the league championships at 84-0.
“Even though it didn’t work out the way I planned, I have no regrets,” she said. “The only thing I regret is not going back to pole vault after that coach left.”
During her four years, Wyffels also earned Summit League District Scholar Honors in 2010; named to the 2011 Summit League Winter/Spring Academic All-League Team-Distinguished Scholar; 2010-11 Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence; and 2012 Winter/Spring Academic All-Summit League Distinguished Scholar.
Wyffels said the highlights of her time at WIU was this season at the Lee Calhoun Invite, which is the school’s biggest meet of the year, when she placed second in the javelin and brought in points for the team. It also was a highlight for her because she had a professor and family standing in the cold to watch her compete.
She also said everyday at practice was a highlight for her.
“I loved going to practice because I never had terribly bad days at track practice,” she said. “You have to have the discipline to do what the coaches tell you, and to make the best of it.”
The biggest challenge for Wyffels over the past four years was trying to adjust to her coaches her first year.
“I went from such a support system with Mel Snook to coaches who already had their athletes and I was the low man on the totem pole,” she said. “Also, leaving pole vault was difficult because I loved being a pole vaulter.”
Page 3 of 3 - The balancing act of athletics and school wasn’t hard for Wyffels, who said it wasn’t much different than high school.
“Geneseo demands a lot of you as an athlete and students, and my professors at WIU knew I was there to be a supply chain management major and to get a job in my field,” she said. “They understood that and they treated me like a student who also was an athlete.”
Wyffels said her advice to other athletes wanting to play college sports is to not be afraid to walk on to a team.
“I know everyone wants that scholarship, but if you produce, you will get that,” she said. “I was a walk on for two years and by my junior year I had a partial scholarship. A lot of people are nervous to just show up and try.”
When looking back on the experience, Wyffels said she doesn’t have any regrets.
“It was a good experience and I wouldn’t change any of it,” she said. “I really loved my experience. I met some good people and they were amazing, and I kept my focus.
“This experience also helped me when I was at job interviews because companies see that you can balance being a student-athlete they know you will be ready.”
Wyffels, who graduated in the spring of 2013 with a degree in supply chain management, has begun a three-year rotation with Caterpillar as an LPDP (Logistics Professional Development Program). Her first rotation is in Atlanta, Ga.