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5 July 2007

Star Track Student Athlete
Gives Reasons for Choosing JSU

Marshfield pole vaulter Amber Wiley signs the national letter of intent to attend Jacksonville State University in Alabama on a track and field scholarship with plans to major in biology. Wiley is the reigning Class 5A pole vault champion in Oregon and was joined at the signing Monday morning by her parents, Rickey and Megan Wiley, and pole vault coach Stan Solomon. She signed the paperwork in the lobby of Pirate Hall. World Photo by Lou Sennick.

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Wiley Vaults Ahead to New Challenge in Alabama

By John Gunther, Sports Editor
Tuesday, July 3, 2007

COOS BAY - With a few strokes of her pen Monday morning, recent Marshfield graduate Amber Wiley became the fifth Pirate pole vaulter to advance to the Division I ranks in the past decade.

Wiley signed a letter of intent to compete in track and field for Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala. The 2007 Class 5A state champion will receive a full-ride scholarship to compete for the Gamecocks, members of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Wiley follows in the footsteps of former Marshfield pole vaulters Christi Bentley, Trevor Woods, Celina Roberge and Muriel Roberge, all of whom went on to compete for Division I schools. Woods and the two Roberge sisters also were state champions.

Monday's signing ceremony was an exciting time, Wiley said.

“It's nice to finally make a decision,” she said. “I waited a long time because I wasn't sure (where I wanted to go to school).”

Wiley visited the university two weeks ago and instantly liked the feel of the school, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

“I kind of felt like it was Coos Bay, except a little warmer,” she said.

Jacksonville State University has about 9,000 students and is located in a rural portion of Alabama, about 80 miles northeast of Birmingham and about the same distance west of Atlanta. It is surrounded by other small communities.

“The school is a smaller campus in a small-town setting,” said Rickey Wiley, Amber's father.

Wiley was drawn to the school by the full-ride scholarship offer and also by Jacksonville State's strong reputation in the sciences.

“They have a really good science department,” said Wiley, who plans to major in biology and then head on to medical school or a pharmacy program.

Wiley also considered Willamette University and Grinnell University in Iowa, as well as Boise State University, where the 2007 Marshfield co-valedictorian would have had nearly a full ride in academic scholarships but no guarantee of making the track team.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I (knew I) could pole vault,” she said.

She described Jacksonville State as having an emerging program in women's track and field - it doesn't offer a men's team in the sport - and said she hopes to help build the program.

“Hopefully at the end of my four years I'll improve their track program enough that they get a new track because they need it,” she said.

Wiley placed second or better at district in the pole vault all four years and was a three-time state placer in the event.

She boasts a career best of 11 feet, 9 inches in the pole vault - her winning marks at both the district and state meets this spring - though she has been over 12 feet a number of times in practice. Her best is well above the Jacksonville State University school record of 10 feet.

Wiley is competing this summer with the Pre Track Club and recently qualified for the Junior Olympics regional meet in Washington.

Wiley was joined in her letter of intent signing ceremony Monday by Marshfield pole vault coach Stan Solomon, who has guided the Pirate program to unprecedented success the past decade.

“I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him,” she said of Solomon.

The veteran coach credited Wiley with dedication and hard work since she transferred to Marshfield from the North Bend School District prior to her freshman year.

“She's been very self-disciplined about her eating habits,” Solomon said, adding that Wiley also was a dedicated participant in weight-room workouts, worked on her gymnastics skills - typical for the best pole vaulters - and joined the high school swim team to build up her strength.

“In track, she's done other events that made her a better athlete,” Solomon said.

Wiley also participated in the shot put and hurdles for the Pirates.

“She's been a good example for the younger kids coming up,” he said. “Kids will realize if they work hard, they can get a scholarship.”

Wiley said the work ethic she learned through pole vaulting is one of the things she will most remember from Marshfield.

“You don't get anywhere if you don't work hard,” she said.

Megan Wiley, Amber's mom, said she was proud of her daughter for her athletic accomplishments, as well as her perfect 4.0 grade point average at Marshfield.

“She's done a real good job of balancing everything,” Megan Wiley said.

Notes: Among the various family members and friends at Monday's signing ceremony was Muriel Roberge, who just finished her freshman year at the University of Nevada. Roberge red-shirted this track season while she recovered from an injury.

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