Herkimer Track and Field Athlete Wins Nationals Despite Obstacles
They were by no means ideal conditions for competition at the Nike Emerging Elite Pole Vault Nationals.
Herkimer High School Senior Melia Couchman, fresh off winning the New York State Championship in the Pole Vault event, was on her way to compete against the best in the country at the Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon. Unfortunately, the trip to the University of Oregon was by no means ideal.
"She competed after taking a Friday afternoon chemistry regents, and then catching a 7 hour flight across the country from Albany to Portland, and then a 2-hour drive to Eugene, arriving at 3:30 in the morning, said her father, Brett Couchman. "She got a few hours of sleep because she had to be at the stadium by 10 am.," he said.
Couchman said at this point his daughter "was jumping on adrenaline and prayers."
She started in 6th place after clearing 11 feet 8 1/2 inches. But according to her dad, she was focused and subdued because she was exhausted from traveling. In her second attempt, her goal was to clean up her form, which work as she cleared 12 feet 2 1/2 inches, putting her in first place. It was the second highest vault of her career, but it would be enough to win nationals, as no-one else in the competition was able to clear that height. Earlier in March at the Nike Indoor Championships, Couchman won that event with a personal and school best vault of 12 feet 4 1/2 inches. That hight was the second all-time best in Section III and the 24th highest all-time in New York State in girls pole vaulting.
"We are flying tonight after a couple days of sightseeing and relaxing," said the elder Couchman. Just allowing the excitement from the accomplishment to sink in.
Couchman was a member of the Herkimer Indoor Girls Track team which won the Center State Conference as well as the Section III Indoor Track Championship. In addition to being a champion pole vaulter, Couchman was also Section III Champion in the long jump.
Watch the vault that won her the 2023 National Championship.