Track & Field – Donovan Catholic’s Alyssa Wilson Already an All-Time Great After Shattering Records as a Sophomore
From the moment she set foot in high school, Alyssa Wilson began a path toward becoming the best female thrower in Shore Conference track and field history, and Donovan Catholic weights coach Chad Dougherty – and almost anyone else with a pair of eyes and some historical context – saw that forecast as all but a sure thing.
The surprising part of Wilson’s ascension toward the top of the state’s all-time leaders is that she is already there after only two years. After a sophomore season that saw her take down Shore Conference and Ocean County records left and right, Wilson now has two years to refine a career that could very well make her the best girls thrower New Jersey has ever seen.
“I knew Alyssa was going to be very good the first time I laid eyes on her freshman year,” Dougherty said. “I knew she was special, but I didn’t know how fast she’d progress. I knew she’d break records and smash them, just not this soon.”
This past season, in just her second year as a high school athlete, Wilson took down the Shore Conference record in the shot put – initially breaking the record with a 47-foot, 6 ½-inch throw to win the event at the Shore Conference Championship meet. That throw edged the old record of 47-6, set by DeAnne Hahn of Brick in 2007 at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
“I always believed I could have a lot of success, but it happened sooner than I thought,” Wilson said. “I had a pretty good year as a freshman and once I cleared 40 feet and won at the (NJSIAA) group meet, that gave me the confidence to keep pushing myself and I’ve seen a lot of improvement since then.”
Wilson then shattered her own record three more times over the course of the last month of the season, first launching a throw of 48-3/4 at the NJSIAA Non-Public A Championships to place first in the group. Later that week, she unleashed a throw of 49-7 ¾ at the Meet of Champions, which broke Hahn’s meet record by more than two full feet.
Unfortunately for Wilson, she was not the only girl to storm past the previous record at the M of C. Whippany junior Nickolette Dunbar won the shot put state championship with a record-setting throw of 51-2 3/4, which is the only throw in the history of the meet longer than the one Wilson executed in the very same event.
“I knew (Dunbar) was going to be tough competition and I think we were both surprised at the throws we had,” Wilson said. “It definitely motivates me to know that I have to be at my absolute best to win and seeing the competition step up just pumps me up even more.”
Wilson and Dunbar showed how strong the shot put competition is in N.J. when the two finished third and second, respectively, at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. Wilson’s top throw was 48-2 ¾, while Dunbar topped out at 50-5. Sophia Rivera – a junior from Brentwood, Mo. – won the event with a throw of 53-1.
At Benedictine University in Illinois last Wednesday, Wilson once again set a new Shore Conference record when she threw 52-5 ¼ in the World Youth Trials – good for fifth place among the American women.
While Wilson has the benefit of two more years to build up toward breaking Dunbar’s record and making a run at a national championship, returning to the Meet of Champions next along with Dunbar serves as motivation for Wilson continue her meteoric rise over the next year. While breaking Dunbar’s record as a senior would be a career-defining accomplishment, the prospect of beating the defending champion head-to-head next year means Wilson will not be resting on her accomplishments.
“My goal is to throw 54 feet in the shot put and I feel like I’m on a pretty good pace to do that,” said Wilson, who credits a change in her mechanics for her breakout year – an adjustment that included replacing a glide on her approach with a spin to get her into her launch position.
If her first two years are any indication, Wilson knows how to build on past performance. As a freshman, she finished fifth in the Shore Conference Championships shot put event with a 39-foot throw before setting a then-career-high with a 42-5 toss in the Non-Public A Final. That 40-plus foot throw laid the foundation for a sizable jump into the mid-40-foot range during the winter season and comfortably into the 50-foot range on July 1.
“Her technique kept on getting better and better,” Dougherty said. “She fixed and tweaked things to progress to where she’s at. She is an extremely hard worker and demands the best out of herself all the time. She is always striving to keep getting better and better.
Wilson’s assault on the Shore Conference record book has been limited to the shot put event in her first two years, but it’s not the only one in which she has had success. She won her first Meet of Champions event in the discus, in which she threw 150-6 after winning the Non-Public A discus with a meet-record throw of 139-9. That championship throw followed a seeding throw of 153-4, which was also Wilson’s meet-record mark a week earlier, when she won the South Jersey Non-Public A discus title. She also finished as the top American in the discus event at the Penn Relays with a throw of 149-2, and tied for second at the World Trials.
Although Wilson does not yet have the discus record in the Shore Conference, she has two more years to close the gap between her and Helene Connell of Jackson Memorial, whose record of 161-11 has stood since 1977.
In addition to her exploits in the discus and shot put, Wilson also finished sixth at the New Balance Nationals in the hammer throw, which is not a high school event. She threw the hammer 161-2, which was the top mark among N.J. entrants.
“Every event is a little different from the other, but by training and my lifting program prepares me for all of them,” Wilson said.
Over the next several months, Wilson will aim to set herself up to reach her goal of a 54-foot shtput throw, which will start by competing for the Donovan Catholic power lifting team in the fall. Wilson has become an explosive athlete during her two years training exclusively for weights. Prior to enrolling at Donovan Catholic, Wilson was a basketball player and also ran sprints as a middle school track athlete. Although she has excelled in other athletic avenues, it was clear to Wilson and her coaches that, from the time she started throwing weights as a sixth grader, her future was in throwing more than running.
“I’m starting to get letters from colleges so this is going to be an important year for me,” Wilson said. “It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s exciting. I know if I keep working hard I can accomplish what I want to accomplish next year.”