VERMILLION — A year after watching teammate Bethany Firsick win a national outdoor pole vault, Emily Grove nearly did the same thing in the indoor season.
After a pair of seventh-place finishes in two previous national meets, Grove took second at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in March to capture her third All-American honor.
For that performance and two other significant distinctions, the junior from Pontiac, Illinois, has been named the College Women’s Athlete of the Year by the South Dakota Sportswriters Association.
More than anything, the thing that stands out to Grove about the 2014 seasons is her technique. As in, she was clicking.
“When I was going down the runway, I felt really good,” she said. “I could just tell my run was pretty snappy.
“And I was having fun too, and that always helps.”
After winning Grove set a personal best with a jump of 14 feet, 9.5 inches during the indoor season and later got seventh at the national meet with a 14-7.25.
She went on to finish sixth in the USA Track & Field (USATF) Indoor Championships and was later named Women’s Indoor Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“I felt like I was ready to PR just because of how good I felt,” Grove said. “I didnt’ have anything to complain about.
“(Vault coach) Derek (Miles) was working on a lot of technical things in the run, and I felt like I was on the right track.”
Grove, though, is once again battling an injury.
Last spring, a stress fracture in her shin led to her redshirting the outdoor season. And now, she is faced with recovering from a stress fracture in her back.
Grove has the holiday break to heal up, but as to when she could start vaulting again, that’s unclear — the short-term focus, instead, is on getting back to spring 2014 form.
“Now I just want to get healthy and rediscover that rhythm,” she said. “Just want to get back.”
The motivation from Miles, a former Olympian vaulter, is helpful for Grove, she said.
“Derek always tells me, ‘I’d rather have you untrained and healthy than trained and broken,’” Grove said.
“I guess that makes sense,” she added with a smile.
A source of motivation for Grove is how the USD women fared in the two Summit League meets this year. The Coyotes were second in the indoor meet and third in the outdoor — North Dakota State won both.
“We got third at conference. We’re not going to let that happen again,” Grove said. “(Head coach) Lucky (Huber) is determined to keep our team moving forward.”
Despite the runner-up finish in the conference indoor meet, the Coyote women went to score a program-record 18 points at the national meet — finishing 10th, the highest in school D-I history.
“I really am a team player, so I always look at how the team progresses,” Grove said.
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