Wills ends one journey, starts another at NCAA meet

WC sophomore to compete in NCAA pole vault Saturday

March 9, 2011

Mackenzie Wills will join the nation's top pole vaulters at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship Saturday.

Mackenzie Wills will join the nation's top pole vaulters at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship Saturday.


Mackenzie Wills' journey to this weekend’s NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship has been anything but a smooth, direct ride.

Wills (Troy/Troy Christian) pole-vaulted through pain most of the indoor season. A nagging leg injury kept the Wilmington sophomore well below the 13-foot level she cleared in 2008 on her way to winning the Division III state high school championship.

“It was definitely a challenge with my leg,” Wills said. “I’m just grateful that I actually am going to nationals and figuring out, dealing with and getting through the problem.”

Despite posting wins in six consecutive meets — including the All-Ohio and Ohio Athletic Conference championships — Wills went to the Mount Union Last Chance Meet on March 5 needing a jump of 12 feet to qualify for the NCAA meet. She ended the drama early in Alliance by clearing 12 feet on her first attempt.

“I knew it was do or die last week,” Wills said. “I just went in with the mindset that there was never a doubt that I was going to do it. I went clean on every bar. It was a big relief.”

Wills knows more than a little bit about protracted journeys. Recruited in 2008 by Wilmington assistant coach Kyle Wolf, Wills decided to take her game to the Division I level. After stops at University of Kansas and Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., she found her way back to WC.

“Wilmington was the first campus that I visited, but I guess I was looking for a bigger college out of high school — that’s what I dreamed about,” Wills said. Things didn’t work out, but I knew I wanted to continue jumping. I was just excited to get to Wilmington. Having worked with Kyle, I knew that I would make big improvements with my jumping. It was really an easy transition. It was good from day one.”

Wills will hit the runway when the NCAA pole vault event gets under way at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Capital University in Bexley. She said she is glad to be in the field, but not glad “just to be in the field.”

“I’m definitely not just glad to be there,” Wills said. “Looking at the list, the girls are higher, but there’s not that big of a difference. In my best, I’ve been there — I’ve jumped those bars. It’s not an intimidating thing. I’m going there to compete and see where I can go, not just to be there. I’m having a lot of fun. The 12-foot jump last week and going to nationals is a big confidence boost. It’s something that I’ve needed coming off the last two seasons and my injury. It’s helping me mentally to get where I need to be to start jumping those higher bars.”