By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
FULTON, Ill. —
Unity Christian senior Erin Wessels made school history two years ago.
She did it again Thursday and will do it for a third time today.
In 2011, Wessels and Callie Willoughby, who was then a senior, became the first Unity athletes to advance to the Illinois state track meet. Today, Wessels will become the first Knight to compete at the state indoor track meet.
On Thursday, Wessels signed a letter of intent to continue her athletic career in college, a first for the school, according to administrative assistant Barb Wright.
“It's excellent,” Unity principal and former track coach Chris Pluister said.
Wessels will join the track team at Trinity Christian College next year.
“Trinity is my dad's college; that's where he graduated from,” Wessels said. “There's such a great sense of community there. They're a great christian college. So I know when I go there, I'll be able to grow in my faith, as well as pursuing a profession that I want to do the rest of my life.”
Attending a Christian college was one of the main priorities for Wessels.
“My faith is really important to me,” she said. “I wanted to continue to grow in it.”
Trinity coach Bob Brickman seemed pretty happy with his end of the bargain, too.
“She's a really good jumper and sprinter,” Brickman said. “That definitely fit a need on our team. … I know she's a good fit for Trinity Christian College in what we're looking for as an individual on top of her track talent.”
Wessels, who was a key contributor for Unity in volleyball and basketball, said she was looking forward to the specialization that occurs in college.
“I'm really excited to see what it's like training year-round,” she said. “In high school, you do volleyball. You do basketball, all those different things. I think by focusing on one sport year-round, I'll be able to improve a lot more and improve with my teammates and build a great team bond.”
Pluister and Brickman both think she’ll do well at the next level.
“She's got the right work ethic,” Pluister said. “She still has room to improve. She hasn't nearly peaked.”
Brickman said: “I think she has a lot of upside. I see her being a big contributor for us over the next four years.”
Wessels, who said she plans to major in business communications and possibly minor in Spanish, will be joining a successful program.
“I don't know how many years in a row it's been, but we're always top-three in the conference,” Brickman said. “We try to stay there. If we can keep signing more individuals like Erin, we should move up in those rankings.”
But first she has an appearance to make a state indoor meet. She’s ranked 10th in the triple jump.
“I'm really excited to have the opportunity to go,” Wessels said. “Before when we were just Unity — and weren't co-oping with Fulton — we didn't have any indoor meets, so I didn't have the opportunity. It's great to be able to. It should be fun. It will be a good experience to compete with other athletes who have a passion for track like I do.”
Then she was one more season at the high school level before taking the next step.
“For this last season, I really want to, first of all, work on my triple jump,” Wessels said. “It's a new event I just picked up last year, so I'm really excited to have more time practicing that. I got injured last year long jumping, so I want to get back in the swing of that. I always want to improve my sprinting times. There's a lot of goals and I'm aiming toward outdoor state in May.”