It was as a sophomore in high school that Casey Wagner picked up the javelin for the first time.
Throwing the javelin has since become a way of life for the Quakake native, and it has taken her all over the country and even abroad.
Wagner, a 2008 Tamaqua Area High School graduate, has completed her sophomore year at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and has surpassed her own school record in the javelin that she established as a freshman.
She has also done well in the classroom as well. A physical education major, Wagner has been selected to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's women's 2010 Division I All-Academic Track and Field team.
While her accomplishments are quite impressive at this stage in her collegiate career, Wagner does not plan to rest on her laurels.
"I just want to be more consistent," said Wagner. "I improved my throws 6-10 inches during my freshman year, and I improved again this year. I don't have a number. I want to continue to improve, whether it's an inch or a foot."
At Tamaqua, Wagner was one of the school's finest all-around female athletes. She was a two-time TIMES NEWS Girls Tennis Player of the Year, and in basketball, she racked up 1,152 career points, which is seventh on the Lady Raiders' all-time scoring list.
After playing softball as a freshman, Wagner switched to track and field the following year and made an immediate impact. While she competed in a number of events, she quickly emerged as one of the top javelin throwers in the state.
As a sophomore, she finished fifth at the PIAA State Class AA championships, then placed fourth as a junior and second to PIAA record holder Fawn Miller of Lakeview High School as a senior.
When she graduated, she held the Tamaqua school and Schuylkill League records in the javelin, with her top performance of 146 feet, five inches coming at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia. She was also an All-State selection.
A lot of different schools were interested in recruiting Wagner's talents, but South Florida proved to be too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"I went down there in Novermber of my senior year, and I loved the coach, Toby Colyer," she explained. Colyer is Wagner's throwing coach with the NCAA Division I Bulls. "I thought he was someone who could really help me out," she added.
USF and Tampa have been good fits for Wagner.
"I love it," she related. "Everybody down here is so nice, and I like the area a lot. The only thing I disliked was the heat. I'm not a big fan of it, so it took some time to get used to it., but I like my team, the kids in school and the school itself. I really enjoy it."
Wagner has flourished athletically with the Bulls. In her first-ever collegiate competition in the USF Invitational, she broke the school record in the javelin with a heave of 150-11. She posted seven NCAA qualifying marks in her first eight meets.
She broke her own school mark at the Big East Championships at Villanova, throwing 152-8 to earn a silver medal, as well as All-Big East honors.
"A bunch of my family and friends from the area came down for that meet, and I had one of the biggest followings there," she recalled.
She finished ninth at the NCAA East Regional with a throw of 145-5, and she was named USF's Oustanding Female Field Athlete of the Year, but she managed to continue to build on her achievements over the summer when she captured the javelin title at the U.S. Track and Field Junior National Championships at Eugene, Oregon, with an effort of 150 feet. That made her USF's first-ever junior national champ.
"Honestly, I didn't expect to win that, because I wasn't seeded in a high position, but it wasn't a great weather day," she remarked. "It was windy, and not everyone responded. I seemed to respond better to it than others did."
That qualified Wagner for the 2009 Pan American Junior Athletic Championships at Port of Spain, Trinidad, in August, 2009, where she placed fifth.
"It wasn't the best meet for me, because I threw in the 144-foot area, but it was a lot of fun being out there with the rest of the USA kids and the people from other countries," mentioned Wagner. "It was an awesome experience for me. There were people there who are big-time athletes."
As a sophomore, Wagner's feats continue to grow. She was named Big East Field Athlete of the Week for April 27, then placed fourth overall at the Big East Championships a week later with an effort of 149-4.
She then placed seventh at the NCAA Eastern Regional at Greenboro, North Carolina, setting another school record of 155-8 to qualify for nationals, becoming the first USF javelin thrower, male or female, to do so.
At the NCAA Championships at Eugene, she finished 21st with a throw of 148 feet.
"I broke the school record in my first meet, PR'd by a couple of feet, then went into a slump where I wasn't as consistent as I'd want to be," she said of her sophomore season. "I picked it up at the end of the year. My goal was to make it to nationals, compete there and get a taste of it for next year."
This summer Wagner has had some time to herself while at home, although she did make a trip to Moncton, Canada with John Kotchmar, her throwing coach while at Tamaqua, to watch former Raider teammate Allison Updike, who won PIAA and Junior National javelin titles this year, compete at the IAAF Junior World Championships.
"I went up to Canada to cheer her on," said Wagner. "Allie is probably the hardest working kid I know. I wish I had her work ethic when I was in high school, and even now. She deserved it for what she has put into it. It's good to see what we have started at Tamaqua is continuing.
Wagner is looking to continue her development when she returns to USF as a junior.
"People who know javelin coaches tell me that I still have a lot in me," she related. "I'm happy. I can't complain. This has taken me to Florida, and I've met neat people and get to see the country when we travel. I want to thank everyone who helped me so far, and I hope to continue to improve."