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McQuaide overcomes broken ankle, qualifies for D-II outdoor nationals in pole vault

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 6:15 p.m.
Slippery Rock Athletics
Greensburg Salem graduate Courtney McQuaide is seeded eighth in the pole vault for the NCAA Division II track and field championships.
Slippery Rock Athletics
Slippery Rock sophomore Courtney McQuaide is the PSAC indoor and outdoor pole vault champion.

Expectations were high for Courtney McQuaide as she prepared for the 2015-16 indoor track and field season at Slippery Rock.

The Greensburg Salem graduate placed 16th at the NCAA Division II outdoor championships as a freshman, and given McQuaide's pedigree — she was a high school indoor state champion in 2014 and the first Golden Lions track athlete to win a WPIAL outdoor title since 1987 — and work ethic, the Rock believed they had their next great vaulter.

Slippery Rock did, but it took a little longer than expected.

At the first indoor meet of her sophomore season, McQuiade suffered a broken ankle.

“It was very painful,” McQuaide said. “Coming back from that injury last year took time. I lost my indoor and outdoor season.”

McQuaide received a medical redshirt and returned for the 2016-17 indoor season. It didn't take long for her to return to form. McQuaide won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference indoor title, which was a sign of things to come.

“When she came back, getting her approach down was our biggest concern,” Slippery Rock pole vault coach Cam Daugherty said. “When you have the type of ankle injury that she did, and you're running toward a pit and jumping. It was something that took a lot of work.”

Which, Daugherty said, is something McQuaide has no problem doing.

At the recent PSAC outdoor championships, McQuaide noticed something as she competed.

“At the conference meet, (the ankle) barely bothered me at all,” she said.

McQuaide responded by winning the conference championship with a vault of 12 feet, 11 34 inches, a personal best.

“When I cleared it on my first attempt, it shocked the heck out of me,” McQuaide said. “I wasn't really having that great of a meet.”

The mark is tied for ninth nationally as she preps for the NCAA Division II championships, which begin Thursday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The women's pole vault finals take place at 2:30 p.m. May 27. McQuaide will be joined by teammate Madeline Marshall, and both were named Wednesday to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region team.

McQuaide hopes to hit 13-0 at the Division II meet, which could be good enough to land among the top eight and earn All-America status.

The first athlete to compete at Penn Relays while at Greensburg Salem appears to be peaking at the right time. She has cleared 12 feet or better in four of her last five competitions.

“She's exactly where she needs to be right now,” Daugherty said. “Mentally, she's come so far in such a short amount of time. She's at a whole other level right now. ... After this, we have her for two more years, and where this goes, I think, is up to her. With her passion and drive, she can do anything. I know she's working harder than just about everybody else, and she's quite the athlete.”

Mike Kovak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkovak@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib.

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