In the final moments of the biggest track and field meet of her life, Kelly McCoy’s overriding emotion was confusion.
“It was really chaotic,” said McCoy, a redshirt junior at Iowa State University.
As the high jump competition wound down last week at the NCAA West Regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas, officials stopped the event to gather for a discussion while the athletes waited and wondered. With a trip to the national meet on the line for the competitors, anxiety was high.
“Then they just walked over and said, ‘You made it,’” McCoy said. “I couldn’t believe it. I asked one official, ‘So, I’m good? He said, ‘Oh yeah, congratulations. You’re going to nationals.’ It wasn’t, “Woohoo! You made it!’ I couldn’t believe it.”
For McCoy, a Cary-Grove grad, the moment left her overwhelmed and teary.
In her first three seasons, she was a multi-event specialist for the Cyclones. When a new coaching staff arrived last June, McCoy became a one-event specialist and has flourished.
Her personal-record tying jump of 5 feet, 9¾ inches in Fayetteville was good for seventh place and ranks as the fourth-best effort in school history. She entered the meet ranked 32nd among high jump entrants.
“The past three years, this has not even been on my radar at all,” she said of the national meet, which begins Wednesday in Eugene, Oregon. “I didn’t know how it even worked. This has been more than I ever could’ve imagined.”
During her first three seasons, McCoy consistently jumped near 5-5. This season, she has advanced almost 5 inches.
She placed fifth at the prestigious Drake Relays by jumping 5-9¼, then won a meet at Mississippi State with a leap of 5-8¾. She was fourth at the Big 12 Conference outdoor meet, clearing 5-9 ¾.
McCoy said she has great admiration for teammate Christina Hillman, a junior shot putter who won the NCAA indoor title this season.
“I always saw her as someone of that [nationals] caliber,” McCoy said. “Now I think, ‘I’m going to the same meet as her?’”
To thrive at nationals, McCoy will have to conquer the next high jump bar and beyond.
“The next bar is 1.81 [meters],” McCoy said of the height, which translates to 5-11¼. “I’ve attempted it four or five times this year. It would be great to get there. And to go out as a 6-foot high jumper would be amazing. I’ve got to get to those higher bars if I want to be an All-American.”
McCoy, who graduated last month from Iowa State, said track has been her sole focus this week, along with packing her apartment. McCoy said getting to sleep each night has been difficult while thinking about competing in Eugune – a community that fervently supports track and field and carries the moniker “Track Town USA.”
“I have no idea what to expect,” she said. “But I can’t wait to step my toe onto that track.”
Two other local athletes – Minnesota pole vaulter Zach Siegmeier (Crystal Lake Central) and Southern Illinois shot putter Josh Freeman (Cary-Grove) – also will join McCoy at nationals.
Freeman, a sophomore, finished third at the regional with an effort of 64-0¼.
Siegmeier, a senior, vaulted 17-7 in Fayetteville to tie for sixth.
Cardinal contributor Lyman: The Louisville baseball team will host an NCAA Super Regional this weekend, which is one step from a berth in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
The Cardinals (48-15) clinched a regional title Sunday night with a 4-1 win against in-state rival Kentucky.
Louisville finished the regular season ranked fifth nationally, thanks in part to the contributions of Huntley grad Colin Lyman, a freshman outfielder.Lyman, who started 31 games during the regular season, is batting .265 for Louisville with 16 RBIs and a team-high 11 sacrifice hits. While appearing in 53 games, Lyman scored 21 runs and stole 10 bases.
Freshman standout Cichocki: McHenry grad Kelsea Cichocki was one of three Western Michigan softball players to earn a spot on the Mid-American Conference’s All-Freshman Team this spring.
Cichocki, who plays first base and third base, started 35 games for the Broncos (17-34) this season, batting .339.
Cichocki set a school record with five hits in a game against Buffalo on April 25. She led the team with a .411 on-base percentage and ranked second in batting average and fielding percentage (.993), while ranking third with eight multi-hit games.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.