Stephanie Milroy never made the IHSA state track and field finals in her best event.
The 2013 DeKalb graduate didn't face far-superior competition or fall victim to injuries or bad luck over her four years in high school. Milroy's best event wasn't even an option.
Illinois is one of 31 states that doesn't sponsor javelin as an event at the high school level.
"During school I did whatever the coaches wanted me to do," Milroy said. "I did discus, I did long jump and triple jump and I did the 4x200. … I just [tried] to make the best of it."
While Milroy had to make do with secondary events during the school year, she competed in javelin at club track meets during the summer. She's posted a personal-best mark of 122 feet, 9 inches and, in April, she signed a letter of intent to continue her track career at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Milroy grew up in a family of track athletes. Both of her older brothers competed in the sport and her older sister, Jen, was a promising javelin prospect until shoulder surgery during high school ended her throwing career.
Summers were spent with the family traveling from track meet to track meet.
As Stephanie transitioned from the turbo javelin, a lighter and safer model with a rubber tip that she started throwing at 6 years old, to the real javelin around age 12, Jen became more involved in coaching.
"She was kind of a big influence on me personally because, being the younger sister, I always looked up to her and always wanted to be like her," Milroy said. "It was something I needed to do, because she was doing it."
Milroy started the recruiting process last summer, taking a more proactive approach because of her unique sport. She filled out numerous recruiting questionnaires on college athletic websites and made a profile for coaches to see through the NCAA.
She took a visit to SIU in February and left a message at the track and field office before receiving a call from SIU pole vault/javelin coach Brian Porter a couple of weeks later.
"The way recruiting works is it's pretty much on the athlete," Milroy said. "If you want to compete in college you have to make it happen."
Porter, in his second season at SIU, said it's unusual for him to recruit an athlete already experienced with javelin. Usually, Porter will steer other track athletes, specifically those with some type of throwing background like softball, toward javelin in college, hoping their athletic ability will make up for lack of experience. With Milroy, there won't be as much of a learning curve.
"It is different to find somebody like Stephanie," Porter said. "She knows what I'm talking about already. It'll hopefully be a good transition for her as she's going into college."
At SIU, Milroy will get to work with a coaching staff that includes former Olympian Connie Price-Smith. The Salukis have a reputation for being one of the top throwing programs in the country. Milroy will also study mechanical engineering.
Because of her experience, Porter said he expects Milroy to be a contributor right away during her freshman season and won't need to redshirt.
"Having experience in the event coming in, my goal is to keep her dynamic, keep her strong, keep her fluid on the runway," Porter said. "Her main season doesn't start until late March or early April. That'll be enough time for her to get going."