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PRINCETON — Selecting a college was a stressful process for Princeton senior Phoenix Smallwood.
She visited five schools and looked at many others.
After multiple visits to Lewis University, she felt the NCAA Division II school in Romeoville, Ill. was the best fit for her.
“Trying to find schools that fit, setting up college visits, the whole ordeal, there were times it was very stressful and I was overwhelmed by it,” Smallwood said. “I went to Lewis and I liked it. It calmed my nerves a little bit.
“Lewis has a nice location. I didn’t want to be too far from home yet far enough away that it was a change. Once I finally decided Lewis is where I wanted to be, it was definitely a huge weight off my shoulders. I felt more relaxed and more settled.”
Smallwood made her decision official Friday by signing a National Letter of Intent to compete in track and field for the Flyers, who are ranked No. 8 in the Midwest Region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Smallwood, who will do triple jump and long jump, also considered Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Carthage and Benedictine.
“It seems like a very close team,” Smallwood said of Lewis. “The coach is great. He was definitely one of the main selling points for me. The thing he said that really got me was not only does he want me if I improve (this season), but he would also want me if my abilities stay the same because he believes he can make me better. That was definitely good insight knowing he plans on helping me improve in my college years.”
Smallwood choose track and field over soccer after playing both sports her freshman, sophomore and junior years.
“Definitely, my underclass years I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. It could have gone either way. I think at the end of last year I decided that track was the direction I wanted to go,” Smallwood said. “I’m not really sure what it was, I just had that gravitational pull toward track.”
Smallwood qualified for the IHSA Class 2A State Meet last year in the triple jump and long jump.
She leapt 34 feet, 6 1/2 inches in the state triple jump preliminaries and recorded a jump of 16 feet in the long jump at state.
Smallwood hopes to improve significantly this season now that she is focusing solely on track and field.
“I know I would get frustrated when I wasn’t doing my best at track meets, and I told myself, ‘Well, that’s because you’re not at practice as much as you would be if you were just doing track,’” Smallwood said. “So I decided to devote all my time this year to track. I think that also got me really excited for track in my college years as well because I know I’m planning on improving a lot more this year with the extra practice.”
Princeton coach Pat Hodge said her commitment to track has already been beneficial and he expects that to continue at Lewis.
“Just watching her in the drills the first couple weeks of practice, I think she’s shown a lot of improvement,” Hodge said. “She’s been working hard in the offseason. That’s something I think will pay off at the collegiate level because people who are there are doing that full time and year round. I think she’ll continue to improve as she gets up to the next level.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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