After juggling soccer and track for three seasons, Phoenix Smallwood has elected to compete in track only this spring for her senior year at Princeton High School. On Friday, she took the final step in making track her sport of choice.
On Friday, Smallwood signed to compete in jumps for Lewis University, a Division II school in Romeoville in the Joliet area.
Smallwood said she realized last spring, even as she qualified for Class 2A state competition, she was not improving in her jumps like she wanted to because she was not devoting all of her attention to it.
"I just had that gravitational pull toward track, because I'd get frustrated when I wasn't doing my best at track meets," she said. "I told myself, well that's because you're not at practice as much as you would be if you were just doing track. So I decided to devote all my time this year to track."
Smallwood said her life became a whole lot less stressful when he made her mind up on Lewis, having no more college visits to make.
"There's times when I was very stressful and was overwhelmed by it. I went to Lewis and I liked it. It calmed my nerves a little bit," she said. "Once I decided where Lewis was where I wanted to be, it definitely was a huge weight off my shoulders. I was more relaxed and settled."
She's visited Lewis a couple times, recently taking in a Flyers' home indoor meet. Smallwood said the team seemed a like a really close team.
Smallwood liked Lewis' location, not being too far away from home, but yet far enough away "it was a change." She also said Lewis coach Dana Schwarting "got me," when he said he wanted her not only if she improved, "but if my ability stays the same, because he believes he can make me better."
Being able to compete at the Division II level is going to be exciting, Smallwood said. She also visited ISU, UIC, Carthage and Benedictine.
PHS coach Pat Hodge said Smallwood has worked hard in the offseason and knows that will only continue with her concentrating on track solely. He said it will help set the bar for the high school kids to see Smallwood come back in the future with her college sweats on.
Smallwood is undecided on a field of studies, her interest in a medical/physical therapy field being sparked by her human anatomy class this year.