The breakthrough Alysha Newman has been waiting for has finally arrived and the Canadian junior indoor pole-vault record is taking a battering because of it.
The Mother Teresa grad, 18, a first-year exercise-science student at Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, leaped 4.23 metres to win gold at the Mid-American Conference championship meet Friday at Eastern Michigan. That height, also a school record, has her ranked 10th in the NCAA, well-placed to make the U.S. college championship field of 16 next month in Arkansas.
She’ll try to cement that position at an upcoming meet at Notre Dame.
“I’m still on kind of a high,” she said Sunday. “To be honest, the last few weeks I’ve really been cracking down, focusing more on my technique and on my run-up. My run-up and my speed has allowed me to get on bigger and better poles and each meet I was getting closer and closer until it finally clicked.”
“It was on my last attempt, so I had nothing to lose. I’d already PB’d at 4.13 and that was my goal coming into the meet. The 4.23 just came out of nowhere.”
It wasn’t that long ago that four metres seemed to be a major barrier for Newman.
“For the longest time I wasn’t seeing any kind of improvement,” she said. “I was doing 3.75 consistently, but I was doing that in Grade 10.”
However, she said Eastern Michigan coach Gerald Langley had a lot to do with the breakthrough. “He really studies the biomechanics of an athlete,” she said. “You just can’t go out and copy what the other top athletes are doing; everyone has their own technique.”
Her mark, which is pending until the paperwork is received by Athletics Canada, was the second in as many days. Oakridge grad Robin Bone, now competing for Western, leaped 4.18 at the OUA championships Thursday night at Windsor.
As much as she’s improved from a physical standpoint, Newman has also had to make some emotional adjustments.
“Now I’m just a little fish in a big pond and the hardest thing was to accept I wasn’t going to be on top right away and that if I was going to get there, I’d have to work that much harder. It’s also been tough being away from my family for the first time because they’ve been such big supporters,” she said, adding Ypsilanti has been, for her at least, the perfect place to attend university. “They seem a little more accepting of the fact I’ve come from a different country. And now that I’m a little more mature and a little older, I know who I am and I can be the person I want to be.”
So how high can she fly now?
“I’d like to do 4.30 indoors and maybe 4.35 outdoors,” she said of her target for the rest of the school year. “I told myself at the beginning of the year that I wanted to do 4.20 indoors and now that that’s been achieved, why not go big?”