For Mackenzie Shell, pole vaulting has always been about going higher.
So when she won a jump off this past Saturday at the Midwest Meet of Champions, that’s exactly what she wanted to do.
“I guess I would say (the jump off) is a little more nerve-racking – either you make it and win, or I make it and win,’” Shell, a recent Port Huron Northern graduate, said. “But I don’t really like it that much, because you don’t get to go up a height. I wanted another chance at 13-6.”
Shell won her jump off against Ohio’s Kristen Denk, clearing 13 feet, 3 inches in her first attempt and winning the meet of champions title. For her efforts, Shell is the Times Herald Athlete of the Week.
Both Shell and Denk — who are ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the nation — broke the meet record, as each cleared 13-3. Neither cleared 13-6 and had the same amount of misses, which forced the jump off.
“We had one more attempt 1t 13-6, so we ended up both having four jumps at 13-6,” Shell said. “We had to go down to 13-3, she went first and didn’t make it, and then I made it.”
The meet – in which fellow Husky Ryan Hunt placed sixth in the boys pole vault with a vault of 15 feet – provide Shell with a rare chance to vault with her competition, as she normally vaults with the boys, and simply put her around other elite athletes.
“It was really nice, because I haven’t had that all year,” she said. “I really enjoyed not having to wait for hours. Having people there makes me nervous, but it makes me focus on my jumps and trying to make it.
“I thought it was really fun. I liked how we got to room with three other people from Michigan. I roomed with two other vaulters and a thrower I didn’t really know. Vaulting-wise, it was a good preparation for nationals. It was really fun being around the top people from Michigan.”
The meet also allowed Shell to try out some new poles before she heads to North Carolina this weekend for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
“I got on 14-7 poles instead of the 14 foot one on the jump off,” Shell said. “I got good practice on them, I really like them. It gives you more time. When I got on the 14-7s, I felt it bed a little more, and that I had more time going up.”