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S-GI graduate now competing as a two-sport athlete at St. John Fisher College

HAMMER IT HOME — Paige Willson, a 2011 S-GI graduate, is pictured competing in the hammer throw at St. John Fisher University. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — Paige Willson holds two school records from Springville-Griffith Institute in track and field. The 2011 S-GI graduate is now competing in volleyball and track as a sophomore at St. John Fisher University.

During her freshman year on the volleyball team, Willson captured the Empire 8 Athletic Conference player of the week award. She led the Cardinals with a career-high 13 kills, but Fisher still took a five-set loss. Willson had 143 kills and 61 total blocks, in her freshman campaign.

Willson was a three-sport athlete at S-GI, playing volleyball, basketball and track. She made first team, all-division in basketball and volleyball, as both a junior and a senior. She also led her volleyball team in blocks and kills, during those two years. In basketball, Willson led the team in points, rebounds and blocks, as a senior.

“It’s hard to say where it all started, but looking back now, I can’t imagine my life without sports,” Willson said.

“Growing up in an active household and participating in sports, at a young age, definitely had an influence. My friends also had an influence on me, as all of them competed in multiple sports and it was a way we all [would] spend time together. As I continued my sports career, competing became my way of life.”

As a high school track athlete, Willson was the team’s most valuable player as junior and, as a senior, was the Section VI small school champion in the shot put. After finishing third at states, Willson made the trip to federations, where she finished seventh.

When her journey in competing against some of the highest-ranked competitors in the area, was finished, she was named the team’s most valuable player and now holds the school record in shot put, with a throw of 38 feet, 3.75 inches.

“Paige’s work ethic is what kind of set her aside from most of the girls I have ever dealt with,” said her high school track coach, Mark Heichberger.

“She worked her butt off. She put the time in and she wasn’t afraid to push her limits. She split her time a lot, between being on the hill throwing, down in the pits jumping and being on the track running. She wasn’t afraid to fail, and a lot of times people are, so when she went out there, she had this different mindset, which is a great thing. She just wanted it.”

Willson competed in shot put, discus, triple jump, long jump and 4-by-100-meter relay. She was joined on the relay team by Lexi Lines, Alex Darling and Caitlyn Hotchkiss. The girls broke the school record in the 4-by-100 relay.

During Willson’s freshman year at Fisher, she achieved second team all-conference, in the shot put, during both the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.

“Every day, whether we are lifting or working on technique, I am committed to bettering myself,” Willson said.

“It’s the hours that I’m not at a practice, tournaments or meets that has made the difference, in my career at Fisher. The new workout routine my coaches have me out on helped make me stronger, faster and healthier; helping in all aspects of my game.

“The biggest contributor to my success, these past seasons, has been the realization of having only two years of eligibility left,” the athlete continued.

“This has made me realize that I have to seize the opportunity. With a time crunch, I can’t take a day off and make excuses, as I continue on my vision quest, to fulfill the goals I have set for myself.”

Her second team all-conference season was put together by 18 top 10 finishes, in five different events, during indoor and outdoor track.

At the New York State Collegiate Track Conference Championships, Willson finished third in the shot put. Now in her sophomore indoor season, Willson has nine top 10 finishes, including two first-place finishes, in the shot put.

“It has been difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Willson said, about playing two sports.

“The challenge and difficulty is what motivates me to keep coming back, and it’s what I do, for the love of the game,” she added.

“I love playing sports and want to take every opportunity to play [and] compete competitively, even if that means going directly from a track practice to a spring volleyball practice. I’m not going to say I don’t get stressed, because I do, but practice allows me to take those 2 1/2 hours to focus just on volleyball or track.”

Willson is majoring in management and minoring in communications and journalism.

She is the daughter of Eric and Judge Willson.
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