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.
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.
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).”
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.
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
“The school is a smaller campus in a small-town setting,” said Rickey Wiley, Amber's father.
was drawn to the school by the full-ride scholarship offer and also by
Jacksonville State's strong reputation in the sciences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
is competing this summer with the Pre Track Club and recently qualified
for the Junior Olympics regional meet in Washington.
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.
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.
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.
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
“She's done a real good job of balancing everything,” Megan Wiley said.
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.
See story at The WorldLink.com Web site.