Girls Varsity Track
Game Summaries & Headlines.
Girls Track Athlete of the Year Katie Mans of Alton
Greg Shashack The Telegraph
Billy Hurst / For The Telegraph
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Alton’s Katie Mans earned a state medal in the high jump as a senior to become the Redbirds’ first four-year medalist and earn 2018 Telegraph Girls Track Athlete of the Year honors. The Illinois recruit
GODFREY – Some of the middle-school memories may be fleeting, but at least one remains vivid for Katie Mans.
“I can still remember the first day I tried to do high jump,” she said. “No one on the team could do it and we needed someone in the event. So I just did it.”
Her first jump came in seventh grade. By eighth grade at Alton Middle School, Katie Mans was a state champion in the high jump. From there, she would go on to make girls track history at Alton High. Destiny by default.
“It’s crazy how things happen and are meant to be,” Mans said. “No one would have ever thought. I always thought I was a runner, which I still kind of am. But I would have never thought it would be high jump getting me to where I am today.”
In May, she became the only girl in Redbirds track history to earn state medals in all four years at AHS. In August, she will become a high jumper at the University of Illinois. Today, Mans is the 2018 Telegraph Girls Track Athlete of the Year.
“Incredible, actually,” Mans said of her place in Alton track lore. “I’m speechless. I always wanted to make a name for myself, to do something other people haven’t, to put my stamp on something that no one else has done is exciting. I’m stoked about it.”
Mans is a four-time Southwestern Conference champion in the high jump. A four-time Madison County champ, three time Class 3A sectional champ and Redbirds record-holder in the event, Mans saved her most meaningful leaps for the state meet in Charleston.
She went 5-foot-4 to make the medal stand in eighth place as a freshman. She cleared 5-6 – her career-best at state – to place seventh as a sophomore and continued her climb up the podium as a junior in third place at 5-5.
The perfect script would written Mans on the top step at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium as a senior state champion. But the 5-5 that proved to be her ceiling as a senior would leave Mans in fifth place in her farewell state performance as a Redbird.
It was not a bad memory for Mans. It was her best.
“When you go over the bar and you know you secured another state medal,” she said, “it’s speechless. That’s what you go there to do. And I was the first ever to do that. It’s amazing.”
The first four-year medalist ever for Alton girls track ranks only behind nine-time state medalist and four-time state champion LaJarvia Brown. Both Brown, now a standout at Texas A&M, and Mans are certain to be quick AHS Hall of Famers when eligible.
Brown remains the program’s lone state champion, but Mans treasures the effort, dedication and sacrifices her four medals represent.
“It means, to me, that I put in enough work to get there,” Mans said. “I did the best that I could. Having someone like LaJarvia to look up to, it was amazing what we both accomplished in our four years at Alton. And when she was gone, I knew I had to leave a name for myself. Knowing I could be a four-time, that was what I wanted to achieve.”
Mans won the high jump in five major meets in a cold and wet spring as a senior by clearing 5-4 or less. She was unable to replicate the jumps of 5-7 that set county and school records in both her sophomore and junior seasons, but Mans is without regret.
“It was a horrible weather season, so just being able to get out and go practice was a challenge,” Mans said. “So with all the conditions and not really having a coach and doing it all myself, I thought I did OK. I was happy with it.”
With no jumps coach in the program, Mans was a self-taught high jumper. She learned by watching the boys and YouTube. Her ability to accept her best effort as a victory in itself came from within.
“Just the fact that I did my best was all that I could hope for,” Mans said of her fifth-place state finish as a senior. “My college coach was there watching me for the first time, so to be able to do well was important to me. Of course, winning is always the goal, but to do the best that I can is always good enough, too.”
With a coach specializing in her specialty waiting in Champaign, Mans cherishes the opportunity to train and compete in the Big Ten with Illinois.
“That’s what I’m so excited about,” she said. “To actually have a coach to guide me rather than figure things out on my own. That’s exciting. I want to excel, past the 6-foot mark.”
And Katie Man’s high jump dreams still reach far higher than a bar 72 inches off the ground.
“I’m still looking at Tokyo 2020,” she said of the next summer Olympics. “Always have a goal.”