Illinois track recruit Meyer keeps busy plotting her future course

CAMARGO – So you've seen Jordana Meyer at a high school track meet and marveled at her versatility.

That's nothing. You should see what she can do away from her favorite sport.

Need some cattle shown at a county or state fair? The Villa Grove senior can do that.

How about delivering a calf? Meyer's done that.

Need some welding done? Where's the blowtorch and mask?

"We've been watching Jordana for a couple of years," said University of Illinois women's track and field coach Gary Winckler, who successfully recruited Meyer. "We've been impressed with the way she conducts herself."

On the track.

Meyer holds or shares 16 Villa Grove school track records. She qualified for the Class A state meet in seven different events her first three years, including four last year. She's a good bet to qualify in both hurdle races this year and also likely will qualify as a member of the 400 and 800 relay teams later this month for the first time.

Off the track.

Meyer feeds and takes care of a herd of 18 cattle she owns with her mother, Melinda. She shows cattle for other people as well as her own.

Meyer also ranks fifth in her class academically. She even has time to work a couple of nights at a pizza joint in Tuscola.

"She started showing cattle when she was 10 years old," said James Scott, a Philo veterinarian. "The last bull she showed for us was a grand champion at the state fair. She's shown umpteen champions, and that's no small deal."

Want more?

As a sophomore at Villa Grove, Meyer worked on a science project under the direction of Charles Graves at the UI animal science department. Studying embryos and the effect temperature has on their development, Meyer was "very quick to pick up the various techniques involved," Graves said.

Said Villa Grove technology education instructor and assistant track coach Marcus Harris: "She's willing to try anything once."

Like welding. And rock-climbing.

"Jordana's definitely a leader," Harris said. "She's the type of role model you want as an athlete or a student. Students in junior high and grade school as well as high school see her and want to be like her.

"One of her greatest attributes is her sportsmanship. She's a gracious loser as well as a gracious winner."

Just happens she wins more than she loses. Meyer hopes the success continues at the UI, where she said she'll compete in the 400-meter hurdles.

"They also want me to compete in the heptathlon (long jump, high jump, shot, 100 hurdles, 200, 800 and javelin)," she said. "The high jump, shot and javelin will all be new. I'm anxious to see what I can do."

So is Winckler.

"I see her as a multi-type person who can help us in the pentathlon indoors and the heptathlon outdoors," he said. "Athletes like Jordana are some of the most exciting to work with because of the unknown.

"I see a lot of potential there. You really don't know what is left. Athletes like Jordana can sometimes really blossom with time and coaching."

The UI Armory won't be Meyer's only stop at the UI. Interested in studying animal science, Meyer is excited about lab work.

Wolverines one weekend, rodents the next.

"I know I want to continue to work with animals in one way or another," she said. "I hope something will come along I really like. I want it to be something I will enjoy doing for the rest of my life. I know it will be working with animals in some capacity."

Last summer served as an example of the range of her activities. She spent one week on a ranch in Wyoming, another at a Junior Olympics track and field meet in Baton Rouge, La.

In between, she showed cattle at various fairs.

"My mother and I went to Wyoming to drop off two bulls and get a heifer," Meyer said. "We stayed there for a week and helped round up cattle. It was a fun experience."

Meyer has been showing cattle since she was in the sixth grade. She showed horses before that.

Like running track, it takes skill to perform in the show business.

"Showing cattle is far more competitive than anyone would believe," Meyer said. "You are judged as well as the animal.

"You can't believe how spoiled the cows get," she added. "I get up at 3 o'clock in the morning on show days. You start out by washing them. Then you put them in their stalls and blow-dry them. Then you feed them and let them lay down and rest awhile. Then you get them up, clip them and sculpture them and get them ready for the ring."

Cattle – like her prep competition – get plenty of attention from Meyer. She'll even give them shots if need-be.

Then there's welding.

"I took the class because I want to be able to do anything on a farm there is to do," she said.

The result: Meyer won an art award for one of her sculptures. It was as rewarding as any blue ribbon she's received. And that's a lot.

"Jordana's work ethic and attitude carries over into everything she does," Villa Grove track coach Sheila Greenwood said. "She gives you 100 percent, and never complains about anything."

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