Wells on his way for Illinois men's track and field

By Will Most

Illinois men’s track head coach Mike Turk talks about sophomore Jonathan Wells differently from the way coaches usually talk about their athletes. Coaches liken their athletes to gym rats with considerable work ethics. But for Turk, Wells’ determination and dedication are unparalleled.

“When he comes in here, it’s all about ‘its time to get better,’” Turk said. “It’s a rare quality. There are a lot of people who have high desire and want to work hard, but he just started at a whole different level.”

Turk added that Wells’ intelligence is his greatest asset, especially when matched up with more gifted athletes. Wells, a member of his high school’s debate team, is articulate, but Turk’s claims can be backed up by more than just Wells’ words and demeanor; the sophomore’s success is apparent in his performances.

This season, Wells — who has previously focused on events such as high jump and long jump — is having success in his transition to multi-events. These multi-events — like heptathlon — have required him to practice and learn to compete in events that he has had little to no experience in.

He is learning quickly.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    Turk had set a season goal of 15 feet for Wells in the pole vault, and within two meets, Wells had already met the mark that coaches had anticipated it would take a whole season for him to make.

    While this season marks the first time Wells attempted the multi-event at the collegiate level, he is no stranger to balancing multiple athletic responsibilities. Wells has played basketball, football and wrestled; Of all the sports, Wells excelled the most in football and track and field, receiving Division I scholarship offers in both sports.

    Eventually Wells chose track and field, the sport in which he held three state titles. Wells actually followed in the footsteps of his brother Sean Wells Jr., a senior at Grand Valley State University who has won two Division II titles in 110 meter hurdles.

    “I love the campus, I love the coaching staff and I love the team chemistry,” Wells said. “That kind of made my decision to come to the University of Illinois.”

    With a few victories under his belt and some real success in his past, this might be the year that Wells cements himself as an Illinois great. Wells is chasing the school record for high jump while pushing himself to succeed in events that are foreign to him.

    “In our program, we talk a lot about doing things the right way,” Turk said. “I can say without any question in my mind there is no one on this campus who does things the right way better than he does.”

    [email protected]?