Hall recognizes Jamie Rebella-Ligon?s run of excellence
In a blast from the hardly-can-be-considered-distantpast, Merrill native Jamie Rebella-Ligon was recently inducted into the Wisconsin Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“It was unexpected but it was a pleasant surprise,” she said. “The banquet was really nice. I think eight or 10 of us were being inducted. It was nice to reconnect with my old coach (Greg Eichelkraut) and my family was there. It was a good trip down memory lane.”
For a jarring of the almost short-term memory, let’s just say that Rebella was one of the most clutch athletes to pass through the halls of MHS.
She captured four consecutive state championships from 1998-2001-in the long jump as a freshman and in the triple jump the next three years-and almost every time it happened in dramatic fashion.
“What I learned competing in high school in track is how to handle conditions that are not always the best,” Jamie said. “If there is a will, there is a way. I remember dealing with torrential weather or coming from behind or dealing with injury. It’s just the way I was raised. God will give you the strength to get through any trial. My family was definitely on edge watching me compete in high school and college, but it worked out.”
Coach Kraut remembers, “To say that Jamie was a clutch performer is an understatement. I believe she thrived on the pressure – kind of a ‘if it is to be, then let it be up to me’ attitude. Since her first scrimmage at DCE indoor track where she fouled her first three attempts to finally snag a mark on the fourth to dominate the results, to her last performance at state in a driving rainstorm when she was the last competitor left and had 1 attempt left to snag her 3rd straight Triple Jump state championship. There were times I felt she just willed herself to achieve. Her offseason training was rigorous. Two-three times per week she was in the field house working on speed and drills with her father Ira.
“She also represented the highest standard of class as she was not only respected and admired by her teammates but also her competitors. She would also help anyone in any situation whether it was steps down the runway, equipment, etc. If things weren’t going well, she looked at herself first as being responsible for the outcome.
Her state performances are burned indelibly in my mind. Her freshman year she comes in as the #1 seed but she couldn’t quite pull it off and ended up placing fourth. She was greatly disappointed, but the next day she comes into the LJ and had that balance between focus and looseness that every coach likes to see. Just before it starts to rain, she pops a jump that takes the top spot. The rain begins and you could see competitors give efforts that showed a lack of will as they were hesitant due to the conditions. Fast forward to her senior year. She hadn’t been as dominating in the TJ as in the past. During trials and finals she inched her way up in the standings and with one jump left the rain started coming down. It was taken as a sign of good luck taking us back to her freshman year LJ. Somehow she puts it all together to nail that last jump in pouring rain to claim her 3rd TJ title. I’m still in awe of that moment, that performance.”
Jamie calls the 2001 title her “most meaningful.”
Not everything in her life has come up peaches and cream immediately, but Jamie is applying those lessons of perseverance and maximum effort as she wraps up her doctorate in physical therapy.
“It’s a big accomplishment I’m ready to get done with,” she said of her impending May graduation from UT-Chattanooga.
Adversity led her on that career path, adversity after receiving a dream full-ride scholarship to the University of Tennessee.
“I was recruited for triple jump and long jump, but I picked up pole vault my sophomore year and that ended up being my main event,” she noted. “I was injured vaulting and needed a cervical fusion in my neck so I retired. To keep my scholarship I worked in the training room and that ended up persuading me to pursue physical training.”
One other “benefit” to the necessary surgery was Jamie met her future husband, David, in rehab from that surgery nine years ago. They were married in 2008.
She noted the influence of Anthony Gerlach, owner of Merrill Physical Therapy.
“I don’t remember a ton about 1999 and 2000 seasons, I just know that I always had to work to defend my titles,” she said. “Anthony made me a T-shirt at one point with my ‘Top 10’ reasons for rehab. Injuries that he helped me overcome such as severe shin splints, ‘jumper’s knee,’ torn hamstring, low back pain, ankle sprains, etc. His positive influence makes me grateful for these experiences. It also helps me be a better therapist because I can understand how my patients feel!
Jamie set a total of 37 school, fieldhouse and facility track records in her high school career. Her triple jump personal best of 39′ 3.25″, set as a freshman at sectional, still ranks as fourth-best performance in state prep history. D.C. Everest’s Lee Ann Majerle set the state record of 39′ 5.75″ in 1987. She lettered twice at Tennessee.