Jan. 11, 2012
by Ken McMillan
Times-Herald Record (Middletown, N.Y.)
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army track and field coach Troy Engle marvels at what Jessica Waggoner can do on the basketball court and in the throwing circle.
"Jessica is as good a two-sport athlete that we've seen here in years and years, in either gender,'' Engle said. "She has a passion that is equally great for both sports. She's picked a tough double, though.
"In basketball, she's running up and down the court and then she does this incredible 180, where she changes from being part of a team sport, that to an extent is endurance-oriented, to one woman, in a circle, in an explosive, powerful event.''
Therein lies the dilemma facing Waggoner, a sophomore. Does she stay with basketball and track, never quite reaching her potential in either, or does she choose one over the other?
"I can't really answer that right now,'' Waggoner said. "I like both. It's hard being in basketball season and not being able to do track. I try and go every once in a while, but it's just not enough. Track is a whole technique thing in the circle. Eventually it will come down to one, but right now I like playing two.''
The 6-foot-1 Waggoner is by no means a basketball all-star in the Patriot League, but her physical post presence is something Army sorely needs, and her recent contributions have been noticeable. In the past month, she grabbed 12 rebounds against Loyola and 11 against Yale, and she scored 11 points at Arizona State and 10 against Quinnipiac.
"I think she definitely has skills,'' said basketball coach Dave Magarity. "She has great athleticism. She has a great touch. She's got good hands. For her size she's a pretty extraordinary athlete.''
"Wags gets better every game,'' said basketball teammate Molly Yardley. "Wags is a solid bruiser. When I want a screen, I want it from Wags.''
Waggoner is already a championship contender in the discus. Her top throw of 145 feet, 5½ inches did not garner a medal at the 2011 Patriot League outdoor meet but it would have earned gold in 11 of the past 21 years and did earn her a spot in the ECAC championships.
Waggoner was a three-sport standout in high school in Nevada. Word had it she was a better volleyball player than basketball or track athlete, and she was a McDonald's all-America basketball candidate nominee. Waggoner attended the U.S. Military Academy Prep School for one year, averaging 25 points, 14 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in six games before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery.
It has been Waggoner's dream to make the U.S. Olympic field events team, but she has a ways to go. The average winning toss at the U.S. Championships over the past four years is 210-1 and the third-place average is 201-2, some 56 feet better than Waggoner's best throw to date.
"I feel like I have the ability to compete at that level,'' Waggoner said, "and I have been told I have the ability to go to the next level, but in order to do that I'd have to give up basketball and I am not willing to do that yet.''
Like Engle, Magarity said he's not about to ask Waggoner to choose one sport over the other, but he also recognizes the benefits of working year-round on her basketball game and getting aerobically fit.
"If she goes into the spring and can't get into the gym at all, she will suffer and ultimately she won't get better,'' Magarity said. "Right now she's clearly one of our best, if not our best low-post player.''
Yardley said she's talked to Waggoner about her dual-sport situation. Naturally, she wants Waggoner to stay and help the basketball team. "We don't have anybody like her,'' Yardley said. Either way, Yardley will support her teammate.
"I would love nothing more than flying to the 2016 Olympics,'' Yardley said.