2019 GIRLS FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Jocelynn Budwig made two trips to the top of the awards platform at the CIF-State Track and Field Championships in May. Here, during the shot put awards, Budwig shares a laugh with runner-up Golden Valley's Shyann Franklin as third-place Carly Watts of Terra Nova looks on. (Credit: Dan Tyree)
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Next in a series featuring individual performances during the 2019 track and field season, this article announces the winner of the MileSplitCA 2019 Girls Field Athlete of the Year.
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As a junior at the CIF-State Championships, Jocelynn Budwig unleashed the longest discus throw of her life in prelims and followed that the next day with a shot put mark that earned her a State title.
This despite a season in which she competed while in recovery from Bell's palsy.
This spring, back again at Clovis Buchanan High for the ultimate season-ending championships, Budwig, now in her senior year at Fowler High, again was at her best, unleashing a discus throw at the Saturday Finals worthy of a State Meet title and following that a few hours later with a lifetime best in the shot put to win a second consecutive title in the ring.
This while persevering through a balky hamstring that limited her attempts through the two-day meet.
Just imagine what Budwig might have done at these meets if totally healthy?
What the University of Auburn will undoubtedly benefit from is what California high school throws can only imagine. Regardless, what a less-than-100 percent Budwig did over this past Memorial Day weekend not only earned her the MileSplit Girls Field Event Performance of the Year, but it is also worthy of our 2019 Girls Field Athlete of the Year honors.
Budwig is just the fifth girl to win both throws in the same State Meet, which had been done six times previous by four girls since 1976.
Budwig's championship-clinching shot put PR of 49 feet, 02.75 inches ranks U.S. No. 3 for 2019 and No. 24 in California high school track history. Her 174-02 discus throw from the 2018 State Prelims, ranks No. 16 in state history. Her 2019 State Meet-winning discus throw of 171-10, the second best of her life, ranks U.S. No. 2 for 2019 and would slot No. 19 in state history.
"The discus hurt my hamstring a little bit," Budwig said in the afterglow of her double championship performance this spring. "So, I only took three of the six throws. But that's all I needed."
Indeed, Budwig's best throw in the final was her first attempt.
"Shot, I took all six. It doesn't matter," she said, referring to the injury. "I was throwing better each time. I was like, 'We're just going to keep going with it.'
"This hamstring injury actually worked to my benefit, as weird as that sounds. It's caused me to be more conscious of the stuff that I'm supposed to be doing right instead of allowing myself to fall into my bad habits. The last couple weeks at practice, that's what I had to do. I had to focus on keeping good posture. I had to focus on coming out of the back properly and that shows that it helped."
Budwig is coached by her father, Jeff, who coaches the throws, and her mother, Jayleen, Fowler High's overall head coach.
"It's definitely nice having your parent as your coach, because you can go out and practice whenever you want," Jocelynn said. "My dad's trying to take naps on Sundays and I say 'Hey, can we go practice?'
"It also has its downside. In any other sport, when you get mad at your coach, when you leave practice that day you don't have to see them until the next day. You get mad at your coach when it's your parent, you have to get in the car with them and go home with them. And then they cook you dinner. Then you forget you're mad at them after you eat."
It was early December in 2017 when Budwig said she was diagnosed with Bell's palsy, defined by WebMD
as "a condition in which the muscles on one side of your face become weak or paralyzed. It affects only one side of the face at a time, causing it to droop or become stiff on that side."
Budwig said she lost function on the left side of her face. She said she wasn't able to blink her left eye and that she wasn't able to wear her contact lens in that eye.
"It was hard, especially being 16 years old going through that," she said during an interview before her senior season. "I still had three weeks of school left before winter break. I had to come to school with it. And I got a lot of questions.
"I got really tired of explaining it to people. I told my friends I was going to wear a sign that said 'It's Bell's palsy. Google it.'
"Thankfully, my best friends knew I was tired of explaining it and they would step up and tell people, 'Don't ask about it.' "
Through initial medication and time, she said the condition improved. Around mid-spring of 2018, Budwig said she was finally able to start wearing contacts and could blink and close her eye.
In the ring, she flourished, especially in the shot where she won 18 times and was second twice in 20 meets with 12 throws at 45-plus and her final six throws at 46-plus. In the discus, she was first 17 times with six throws of 160-plus and another three at 159-plus, including her epic 174-02 at State Prelims.
"One seventy-four two definitely was the highlight of my track season last year in the discus," Budwig said during the pre-season interview. "Discus was really hard for me mentally. So, for me to hit that mark, it was like a breath of fresh air."
As encores go, Budwig couldn't have written a better script.
She did not play volleyball in the fall to focus on drilling and perfecting the muscle memory of her events. It paid huge dividends.
In the discus, she was undefeated in 16 meets, including a fourth consecutive CIF-Central Section Masters Meet title. In the shot, Budwig won 16 out of 17 meets. She had eight meets where her winning throw in the discus was at least 160 feet, including two at 170-plus. In the shot, 14 were 45-plus, six were 47-plus and her final two meets, State Prelims and State Finals, she peaked at 49-plus. Among her throws sweeps, three of the most competitive and iconic in-season meets in the state: Stanford, Arcadia and Mt. SAC, before also doubling up at State.
In the evening, toward the end of the State Meet in May, Budwig was asked to reflect on her high school career and project a memory most likely to be first in her mind:
"This day," she said. "This day and Arcadia, probably. I won both. I was double title here and I was double title there. It's the best feeling being able to end your career as a double state champion. PRing in the shot. Throwing a season best in the discus. This day couldn't have gone any better."
MORE ABOUT JOCELYNN BUDWIG:
Photo credits: Frank Bellino, Jeffrey Parenti, Pat Rhames, DeAnna Turner