Sophomore Mike McDermott, deemed an “Australian kangaroo” by one of his teammates, is a critical member of Carnegie Mellon’s men’s track team, specializing in the jumping and pole-vaulting events.
McDermott was recently named the University Athletic Association (UAA) Athlete of the Week after helping the Tartans win the Lid-Lifter Invitational held at Denison University on Saturday, Jan. 26.
McDermott recorded three personal career records in his signature events, coming in first overall in the pole vault after clearing a height of 4.25 meters.
He then placed fourth in the long jump with a leap of 6.20 meters, while throwing a distance of 10.23 meters in the shot put.
“I was particularly excited by my jump,” McDermott said. “It was a great way to start off the season.”
The track season comes with high expectations, as the Tartans took second at the indoor track UAA championships last year.
“My goal for the team this year would be to sweep the UAA indoor and outdoor championships,” McDermott said. “I think that we could do this as long as we stay focused.”
McDermott is no stranger to the mental preparation that is essential to track and field, after struggling to jump and vault while sustaining multiple injuries.
Although he joined pole vaulting and jumping a senior in high school as a “joke”, it has clearly grown into “much more.”
“I found that I was actually good at it,” McDermott said. “I love the fear factor of pole vaulting. It’s truly unique.”
McDermott also commented on the team as a major asset. “We are not just a team, but a family,” he said.
His teammates could not agree more.
Sophomore business administration major Sasha Spalding was not short of praise. “[Mike] is very dedicated and very supportive of the overall success of the team. He is a great friend and he knows how to play hard and work hard. [Mike] started with a new personal best and was back training the next day. No matter what pain he is in he does not give up,” Spalding said. “He is a role model and a great guy.”
“He is one of the best athletes on the team and contributes in many events. On his personal level, his toughness is inspiring and the way he deals with injuries is unreal,” said senior materials science major Daniel Cardenas Rivero, who specializes in pole vaulting and jumping.
McDermott noted that the team loves to have fun too, and just “goof around.” “Both me and [Cardenas Rivero] have a special dance that we do before we vault,” he said.
“Even more important than the dance is what I think about on the runway though. The last thing I think about before I vault is the last country song I listened to before we got off the bus, and then my mom,” he added.
Overall, McDermott’s focus proves to contribute greatly to his success, both in the pole vault pit and in the classroom.
The biomedical engineering and materials science double major is also part of the pre-med program, where he hopes to revise a burn therapy treatment and get his research project funded in order to move toward a patent this summer.
For now, McDermott , the “Australian kangaroo”, sets his sights on making it to nationals and embracing every moment he gets to vault, which is “at home” out on the field.
“Not many people get the chance to charge with a 15-foot pole and fling themselves into a pit,” he said. “I’m thankful for it.”