Molly Stecker can put one matter to rest.

When she wears her high school uniform for the last time, the Hudson senior wants to be standing on top of a certain platform sometime in June.

Rumor has it that it has something to do with a podium.

"Of course, I would love to be able to win states this year," the accomplished teenager said.

Stecker will leave it at that, though. Is she superstitious?

Maybe a little.

Regardless, when it comes to Stecker’s ultimate goal, Stevie Wonder may have, well, said it best in his 1972 chart topper.

"Nothin’ more to say."

"I don’t want to jinx anything, so for right now, I’m going to train hard and keep my fingers crossed," Stecker said.

Thankfully for the conscientious teenager, there were no black cats, broken mirrors or ladders when it came to picking a college.

She can be perfectly rational about that topic.

Thus, Stecker recently signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic and track and field careers at East Carolina University.

Stecker, the 2019 Division I state runner-up in the high jump, chose the public research university over James Madison (Virginia).


A couple of beaches might have had something to do with it.

"When I started the college search, I knew I wanted to go south because of the warmer weather so location automatically played a big role in the decision," Stecker said. "My decision ultimately came down to ECU or James Madison University, but there were a few things about ECU.

"They had a boys track team while JMU only had girls. I liked the campus better. That made it the best decision for me."

Her academic discipline had something to do with it too.

Stecker plans to major in education, which was another crucial factor in her decision.

"When I was first starting to look for colleges, I made sure all of the colleges had good education programs," Stecker said. "ECU was originally an all-education college and they have maintained a good reputation for that major. It was definitely a big factor in even considering the college, let alone signing."

Stecker, who signed in November, recently finished in a tie for sixth place in the high jump at the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches indoor track and field championships.

She won the indoor title in 2018 and finished in a tie for fifth place last year. Stecker also placed ninth at the 2018 outdoor state meet.

Knowing that his star pupil made one of the most important decisions in her life, Explorers head girls track and field coach Jeff Hildebrand can feel a bit more at ease about the upcoming season.

For Stecker, the feeling is mutual.

"I told her that there is no pressure," Hildebrand said. "She doesn’t have to perform perfectly. She can just relax and enjoy herself."

Stecker has been enjoying herself quite frequently during the last four months. Knowing that she is signed, sealed and delivered, life is good for the talented teenager.

"It has been very nice being able to sit back while everyone else is still scrambling to apply and get accepted," Stecker said. "It also does alleviate a lot of pressure knowing that I will be able to be a collegiate athlete regardless of how my senior track season goes.

"Overall, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to attend and compete at a college that I have fallen in love with."

Stecker started to master the nuances of her craft when she was in eighth grade. Stecker, who lived in Pennsylvania at the time, had a training regimen that could be considered somewhat primitive.

"I remember putting up string between lawn chairs in our backyard and having both her and her brother jump over that when they were still in grade school," said Stecker’s father, Dave, who also is Hudson’s jumping coach, along with Matt McClure. "It was something silly and fun to do and Molly always had good height."

When Hildebrand first met Molly, he knew he had a rare talent on his roster. Even if her unassuming demeanor may have suggested otherwise.

"She’s a quiet, confident, happy young lady," Hildebrand said. "She is one of those once-in-a-decade-type athletes. The great thing about it is, she’s enjoying it. She’s enjoying her teammates. She has had a great career."

East Carolina finished eighth at the 2019 American Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships. Stecker plans to continue jumping when she competes for the Pirates. She may try some other events, as well. One of them could be considered the ultimate test of athleticism.

Think Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

"In high school, I’ve only focused on high jump, but I’m assuming my coach will encourage me to compete in the pentathlon," Molly said. "I am open to try most everything."

Her father is certainly pleased with his prized pupil’s choice. At the same time, knowing his daughter will be spending the next four years in Greenville, the jumping guru wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel a bit heartbroken.

"Her mom and I are unbelievably proud of her," Dave said. "She set her goals and is working hard to achieve them. She wanted to go to a good school for education, compete where it's warmer and feel comfortable with the coaches and team.

"Prior to committing, we met with the ECU coaching staff, some team members and researched and toured the school. She immediately knew this was the place for her. Of course, as a dad, I'm sad to see her go that far away and I won’t get to see a lot of her competitions."

Since Dave won’t be around his favorite athlete nearly as much, he recently made a deal with Molly. If she agrees to it, her dad will gladly pick up the tab.

"She has always been a strong, independent person and I'm more excited to see her live her dreams," Dave said. "She'll owe me some extra dad/daughter dinners when we visit and when she comes home during breaks."

It’s a safe bet Molly won’t mind. If it weren’t for her father and the rest of her family’s everlasting support, the standout jumper may have never gotten a chance to compete for the college of her dreams.

"My dad and the rest of my family have been as supportive as always and just as excited for me about college as I am," Molly said. "It is going to be a little weird going to college and not having my dad standing on the sideline giving me pointers at every meet, but I know that he is nothing but proud of me."

So are a few of her other "family" members. Her navy blue-and-white family members, that is.

"Like anything, there have been some personal ups and downs throughout the past four years," Molly said. "However, track has given me not only confidence athletically, but my best friends through high school.

"Coach Hildebrand has been the head coach since my sophomore year and has been amazingly supportive of me and all the other girls on the team. Coach [Megan] Petraska has always been one of my biggest fans despite never coaching high jump.

"And then there’s obviously my dad, who has always been there to support me and has been the one who inspired me to high jump from the very beginning."

Molly will sorely miss these special members of her "extended" family. She doesn’t plan to take them for granted anytime soon.

Especially if she finds herself standing on top of a certain platform later this spring.

"Leaving Hudson track will be bittersweet," Molly said. "I know I am going to an amazing college with an amazing track program, yet Hudson track truly feels like one big family that I have to move on from."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @FrankAceto_Gannett.