Wills finishes 11th at NCAA Championship
Sophomore clears season-best 12-0.50
March 12, 2011
Mackenzie Wills clears the bar at 12-0.50 at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. The WC sophomore finished 11th in the competition. (John Swartzel photo)
BEXLEY — Mackenzie Wills jumped to an 11th-place finish in the pole vault at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship, hosted by Capital University on Saturday.
Wills (Troy/Troy Christian) cleared season-high 12 ½ in her first NCAA championship appearance. The sophomore exited the competition with the bar set at 12-4 ½. Abigail Schaffer of Moravian College won the event with a meet-record vault of 13-8 1/4.
The performance capped a strong finish to a season that was shortened at the beginning by a leg injury.
“The indoor season was a little bit different than we had hoped it would be,” Wills said. “Not being able to train and missing two months at the beginning was difficult. It was definitely a blessing to be here today.”
Wills did not make the eight-tiered NCAA All-America podium, but she was certainly in the mix. Her top jump tied for the sixth-best vault, but she was bumped from sixth to 11th position on the criteria of missed attempts.
Wills entered the competition at 11 ¾ — a height she cleared on her first attempt. The Quaker stayed clean by clearing 11-6 ½ on her first attempt.
“I knew coming out today that misses could be crucial, the difference between being an All-American and a lot of places,” Wills said. “We knew that coming out and hitting those first two bars would be key. The first few felt really good. We just need to become more consistent and just get things more dialed in.”
Wills’ first two misses came at 12 ½, but she stayed in the hunt with a clean jump on her third attempt.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t hit the 12-foot bar on the first attempt. That would have made a big difference in placing,” Wills said. “They were close jumps. My running was kind of changing and I wasn’t bringing quite as much speed. But I was able to put things together on the third attempt. I jumped that bar to get here, so I wanted to at least do what I did to get here. I knew what I had to do — it was just a matter of me doing it.”
With the bar moved to 12-4 ½, Wills had good looks, but was unable to clear the bar and advance in the competition.
Wills’ indoor season ended where it started — at the Capital Center. She opened the campaign by winning the Capital Purple & White Invitational on Dec. 11 with a jump of 11-8. Between then and Saturday was a journey that included wins at the All-Ohio and Ohio Athletic Conference championships. The journey will now transition to the outdoor season.
“I’m excited to start training again for outdoor,” Wills said. “I want to make better a better appearance outdoor, make better bars and just come ready. The training is crucial, and that’s something that we missed for the indoor season. There’s nothing we could do about it, but it definitely would have made a difference.”
Wilmington head coach Ron Combs said Wills' time in Bexley will pay future dividends.
“She’s gone through an awful lot. I’m really proud of her,” Combs said. “She did a great job to get here. Hopefully, the experience of being here will help her outdoors, just being in that environment and seeing what it takes to be an All-American. I think this experience will pay off for her down the road.”