Edwardsville High School field hockey left lasting impact on Jenny (Johnson) Norton

[The Edwardsville Intelligencer] Edwardsville High School field hockey left lasting impact on Jenny (Johnson) Norton

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Jenny (Johnson) Norton found a fit with field hockey at Edwardsville High School, and it would play a key role in her personal and professional career.

A 1989 EHS graduate, Norton played three seasons of field hockey for the Tigers and also competed as an individual in swimming and diving with local community programs during summer and winter seasons. She went on to play field hockey at St. Louis University and was also on the swimming and diving team for one season.

“My freshman year of high school, I participated in cheerleading,” said Norton, who is a physical therapist and moved to Florida three years ago after spending most of her professional career in the Edwardsville area. “I met my husband, Tim Norton (EHS ‘86 and soccer player), who was then my boyfriend, when I was a freshman and he was a senior, and he strongly encouraged me to play field hockey.

“I fell into field hockey totally by accident and I didn’t start playing until my sophomore year. During my sophomore year, (Tigers coach) Sharon Petty took us to watch a former EHS player who was playing for Southwest Missouri State, as that former EHS player was in town for a road game at St. Louis U. I was like, ‘I can do this’ and work hard toward earning a scholarship and play something that I really enjoy.”

Where Are They Now? 

Each week, the Edwardsville Intelligencer will release a "Where Are They Now?" story about former student-athletes from Edwardsville High School or Metro-East Lutheran. If there is a former student-athlete you would like to know about, please e-mail Scott Marion at smarion@edwpub.net.

During her senior season at Edwardsville, Norton was an important member of the 1988 team that won the Midwest Regional Tournament, which was the end-of-season tournament between all the St. Louis schools. It was the only time that EHS has ever done that.

“We were the only team south of Chicago that played field hockey at the time, so we often had to go to St. Louis to play,” Norton said.  “We considered “(the Midwest Regional) would be the equivalent of a state championship if they had that sort of thing.

“It was a great recognition for us ‘farm girls’ in Edwardsville. We didn’t get a lot of recognition on the other side of the river. We saw it as a great accomplishment, and it was an unexpected thing for us to keep on moving forward through the tournament.”

Like many other former EHS field hockey or basketball players who competed for Petty, Norton regards the longtime coach as a mentor and a role model.

“She was really good at instilling leadership concepts into us,” Norton said. “Especially now that I’m a parent and working in a professional role, I can appreciate a lot of the things she taught us, such as leading by example and being humble. She was good at being supportive without doing the work for you, and that became a life lesson.”

Prior to EHS, Norton attended Edwardsville Junior High School and Leclaire Elementary School. She played T-ball and softball in recreational leagues in the summer, she also swam and dove for Montclaire Swim Club in Edwardsville.

“Montclaire is where I met my husband Tim. We swam and dove together,” Norton said. “We also worked and coached there together.”

After graduating from EHS, Norton moved on to St. Louis University on a partial field hockey and academic scholarship.

“I had my heart set on physical therapy by the time I got through high school,” Norton said. “I looked at some other schools like Northwestern and Northern Illinois and I kind of wanted to go away. But I visited the SLU campus and did my interview with the PT school, and I knew the field hockey coach through attending her camps, and everything just kind of fell into place.”

“Plus, my friend Jamie Schwear (a 1989 EHS graduate and former SLU basketball player who is now a physical therapist in Australia) was going there too.  She and I were roommates for three years. We could support each through the transition from high school to college and through PT school.”

Norton was part of the SLU field hockey program from 1989 to 1994, serving as a graduate assistant in her final year.

During her senior season in 1993, Norton was the team captain and received the Outstanding Female Senior Athlete Award.   She was also the 1993 NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Missouri.

“You can get nominated for that award by your coach or your athletic administrator,” said Norton, who also did a lot of volunteer work during her time at SLU. “I kept passing through the ranks and I got recognized on the state level.”

Versatility was a plus for Norton throughout her high school and collegiate field hockey career.

“I started out playing defense my sophomore year at Edwardsville and then I moved up to play striker for my junior and senior years,” Norton said. “In college, I played midfield, so I kind of bounced all over the place.”

Norton was also a member of the SLU swimming and diving team for one season in 1990.

“I kind of fell into that because some people that lived in my dorm knew that I played field hockey and that I do swimming and diving during my offseason training,” Norton said. “The coach came and watched me, so I did a few swim meets for SLU, which was a good experience.

“But I swam and dove only one season because my schedule for PT school was getting more demanding and required so much lab time. We were literally in the classroom from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days and I couldn’t balance everything., as field hockey and swimming seasons overlapped.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1994, Norton worked on her master’s from 1994 to 1997, with emphasis in pediatric research. She and her husband were married in 1994.

Norton’s professional career started with seven years as staff physical therapist for St. Anthony’s Rehab Center in Alton, followed by six years at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, serving the role as Pediatric Rehab Manager for three years (including time spent working with EHS classmate Sarah Helle) and five years working for Milestone Therapy in southern Illinois.

Overlapping those jobs was a 16-year self-employed stint for Weemovers Physical Therapy.

In September of 2019, Norton and her husband moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where she works for Progressive Pediatric Therapy and is currently the Rehab Director of Boca Raton Clinic. Their daughter Lexi, 25; and their son Trey, 22, also live in Florida.

“My daughter was already in Florida because she did an internship in Naples and decided to stay upon graduation from college,” Norton said. “At the time, we were kind of empty nesters because my son was out of the house, and we decided we were ready for a change.”

“My husband works for Eastern Metal Supply and their corporate office is in Lake Worth, Florida. He made a lateral move, and I took a new position here.”

In her current job, Norton participates in orthotics/wheelchair/equipment specialty clinics.

“It’s all pediatric-related. Orthotics is the medical term for braces used to support the body,” Norton said. “Wheelchair Clinic involves any specialty equipment that clients need related to mobility, seating, positioning or adaptive needs.”

In April of 2022, Norton was part of a Bahamas mission trip with BAPD (Bahama Association of Persons with Disabilities), which provided equipment and services to about 20 young people ranging in age from 3 to 22 over two days in an effort to support needs for orthotics and equipment. The group hopes to make a return trip in January of 2023.

When she’s not working, Norton is dedicated to physical fitness. Her hobbies include competing in triathlons from 1994 to 2016, CrossFit training from 2014 to 2018 (including competing in the Granite Games in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2017 and 2018 and being an adaptive CrossFit and boot camp instructor in at CrossFit 557 in Collinsville in 2018 and 2019. 

“My job and my hobbies kind of play off one another,” said Norton, who also enjoys hiking, swimming, outdoor activities and scuba diving. “Our clinic serves clients up to age 22, so I find that if I’m not physically strong, I’m challenged to repeat moving and lifting clients, day after day.

“My big motivation is keeping myself prepared for what’s to come next. My other motivation is thinking of kids that will never have the kind of body experiences that I get to have. I’m able-bodied and I have different kinds of limits than they do; I want to normalize their disabilities within myself as much as possible and try to set an example of putting actions before words.”