The bar was set high for Mackenzie Shell’s freshman season — literally.
The Oklahoma pole vaulter and Port Huron Northern alum knew she was bound for a big day Saturday at her first collegiate meet. She met those high expectations in record-breaking fashion.
On her third jump in her collegiate career, Shell knocked off the Oklahoma’s women’s indoor pole vault record, clearing the bar at 14′.5″ — the third highest jump in the nation to date.
“I came in with the mindset that jumping 14 would be great,” Shell said. “Breaking the record was really cool because I knew everything was paying off and I’m hitting my marks.”
For her record-breaking performance, Shell is the Times Herald Athlete of the Week.
On the track, Shell is already etching her name in Sooners history. Even the transition to college has been made smooth by her new teammates, making her beyond happy in her decision to go to OU.
“I love just going to practice every day, it’s what I look forward too and what I plan my day around,” Shell said. “It gives me the drive to get better and the people I’m around make it even better.”
Clearing 14 feet was enough to impress everyone at the meet, but Sooners coach John Dagata was blown away well before the Invitational.
“From day one of recruiting to training and getting her on campus, nothing changed,” Dagata said. “That was the best thing, her attitude was very similar … for the most part she transitioned really well because of her family and parents.”
John went on to list all of her family members with a little background on each of them. Dagata even admitted he doesn’t know all the names of his athlete’s siblings, but the fact he knows about Shell’s family just shows how important that foundation is for her.
The fact that she is more than 1,000 from home makes it even more impressive.
“That’s what’s important, that her family is extremely helpful and supportive,” Dagata said. “On the other hand, when you’re gone you’re gone, and that can be hard for a family.”
Dagata, whose career has taken him all over the world for numerous prestigious track and field events, also points back to Northern to credit Shell’s success. Just like how people were impressed with Shell’s record-setting jump, that’s how impressed Dagata is with Northern track coach Craig Dickinson in how he prepared Shell for the next level.
“That is very underrated,” Dagata said. “And more and more these days that’s the thing I’m looking for when I’m recruiting.”
It’s almost unbelievable this is he beginning for Shell, who plans to conquer the Olympic trials in July. She says she still has some work to do to really get to that level, but with her all-around talent and support system, she has all the potential in the world.
“It is very, very, very rare to see an athlete of that level combined with the great people she has around her,” Dagata said. “That’s what makes her so different than so many athletes out there.”