Nashville High School 2018 graduate, Jaylyn Bower signed a letter of intent recently to run cross country for the Kaskaskia College Blue Angels starting in the fall 2019 semester.
Bower, who opted to serve her country right after high school instead of college, was recruited by KC coach Mike Hargis while in high school, but chose the Army National Guard instead. When asked why she chose the military instead of college she said she was hoping for new life experiences. She added, "I was physically and mentally ready for a challenge. Joining the Army National Guard was something I thought I would enjoy and it also gave me a chance to save some money to help pay for college. I think serving is something everyone should do, not just for themselves but for their country".
In high school, Bower was named the Most Valuable Runner her senior year, named to the All-South team for two years, and won the conference champion individually. In 2018 the NCHS girls team was also very successful as a whole earning conference, regional, and sectional champions.
Nashville High School Teacher and Coach, Jean Orr was Jaylyn's coach for four years. Bower says, "I really owe her and Jason Finke (grade school coach) a huge thank you for all of my success in running. Coach Finke was the one person that really helped me find my passion for running. He was my biggest cheerleader and I will never forget the way he made me feel when I ran. Win or lose he was a great coach and mentor."
When asked, Coach Jean Orr spoke of Jaylyn's dedication to running. "Jaylyn was a dedicated runner and became a very effective leader for the Hornette Cross Country team. Her commitment to service is evident in her enlistment in the Army National Guard after high school graduation. I know she will be an excellent addition to the Kaskaskia College cross country team, and I wish Coach Hargis and the team the best of luck next season!"
Coach Jason Finke says of Jaylyn, "Jaylyn is a very motivated young lady, who is disciplined and focused. This shows in her dedication to running and is what will make her successful in whatever she chooses to do! Good luck Jaylyn - "Pass, don't get passed!"
"After Coach Finke, I really thought that no coach could possibly be as great. Coach Orr proved me wrong as she challenged and pushed me to be better. Sometimes I put up a fight and didn't really accept the challenge, but when I did, and I saw the results, I was amazed at how much and how fast I improved. I would not have accomplished so much without her there pushing me."
She started her service with a 10-week basic training, then a 7-week Advanced Individual Training (AIT) held at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. She now attends monthly drills and will serve for a few weeks at a time for annual training. Her new unit is located at the 1844th Transportation Unit in East Saint Louis.
Jaylyn says that since she was in the 3rd grade, she wanted to be the first woman President of the United States, she adds, "I'm slowly building my resume for that job, so I decided criminal justice and pre law would be a good way to start towards that goal". She also says, "I also really value school and was really excited about starting at Kaskaskia after my training. In fact, that is all I thought about during those long marches. I kept thinking to myself that every step I take is $50 towards tuition!"
Kaskaskia College was her college of choice after serving because all of her sisters attended there and her entire family liked the idea of her starting her college education at KC.
KC Coach Mike Hargis says, "Jaylyn is a great addition to our program. She will bring a great work ethic and leadership to the team. Her enlisting in the Illinois National Guard tells you a lot about her".
When asked about her goals for the future, Jaylyn said, "President of course, but until then I hope to attain a four-year degree and maybe see a deployment in my future".
Pictured are (seated) - Jessica Jolliff-Koelling (mother), Jaylyn Bower, Chuck Bower (father). Standing is Vinny Koelling (step-father), KC Coch Mike Hargis, and Dana Bower (step-mother).