Currently the track and field programs at William Woods University have about six area athletes competing for it.
On Thursday at North Callaway High School that number was upped again now that Jaclyn McMurtry has signed her national letter of intent to start running for the Lady Owls starting this fall.
"There's a lot of excitement right now. I never thought this opportunity would come," said McMurtry. "I don't know what to feel except excited about everything that's going on right now. I know I'll be running middle distance races like the 800 run with William Woods, but I don't have the specifics when it comes to what event I'll actually compete in. It's really important that my family is here. That means a lot. Everyone here made time out of their day and week to come."
Because McMurtry is hoping to become a Physical Therapist after graduation, her major at William Woods is most likely going to be Exercise Science. While she was also considering the University of Missouri to study these pursuits, it was the lure of a scholarship that made the Owls the right choice for her.
"After the state meet coach (James) Marshall noticed her and came in and started recruiting her to come and run track for them," said North Callaway varsity track and field coach Reid Randolph. "Jaclyn is what we want our program to be. She works hard and never complains. She also does great in the classroom and mentors the other athletes, especially the younger ones."
One of the many area athletes presently competing for the Owls track squad is North Callaway grad and current freshman Erinn Bush, who found her niche throwing the javelin after her time with the women's basketball team didn't lead to the results she was hoping for. Former Thunderbird Craig Metcalf, who stands in at 6-foot-3 and competes in the throwing events, also just completed his junior season with this team.
"First we take care of the classroom, then we work to get as many kids as we can to come out for track. They're are so many events to choose from we can get them in and put them in position to be successful," Randolph said. "Somebody is going to have fill some big shoes next year when it comes to leadership. There are also going to be a couple relay teams in need now that Jaclyn is moving on."
As for the other local athletes currently on the William Woods track and field rosters, the men's team features Montgomery County's Cody Guile and Centralia's Denver Horn. The women's squad runs even deeper in this regard and includes Mexico's Jami Brandow, Emily Andrews of Wellsville-Middletown and Montgomery County's Anna Ash and Abagayle Bartlett.
"I think coach (Reid) Randolph and coach (Chad) Craghead have done a good job developing a program with a great reputation. This has always been a community of hard-working people," said William Woods head coach James Marshall. "I taught here for four years about 36 years ago and I don't think things have changed in the way people of North Callaway approach life. They're high-value people with strong character and they raise their kids the same way."
When it comes to results, the fact the Lady Owls just won their fourth-straight American Midwest Conference title speaks volumes. Add to that the men's second place finish at the same event and these local athletes appear to be part of something bigger than themselves.
"She is an extremely hard worker, which is obvious from her grade point average and the fact she was Academic All-State. Jaclyn can fit into a lot of different events for us, from the 200 dash all the way up to the 800 run" Mashall said. "I basically recruited her because of everything I heard about her character and work ethic. A lot of coaches recruit the fastest times. I've been around 37 years and I look more for kids who have strong character. Those kids tend to find a way to get to the finish line first."