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Tide pole vaulter Reese set to land at UConn with D-I scholarship

Concord High School's Megan Reese competes in pole vault at the Capital City Classic Track Meet at Memorial Field in Concord. Reese placed 1st and tied her personal best of 10 feet, six inches; Friday May 17, 2013.

(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor file)

Concord High School's Megan Reese competes in pole vault at the Capital City Classic Track Meet at Memorial Field in Concord. Reese placed 1st and tied her personal best of 10 feet, six inches; Friday May 17, 2013. (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor file)

When Concord High senior Megan Reese signed her letter of intent yesterday and accepted a track and field scholarship to pole vault at the University of Connecticut, it marked a milestone in a journey that has included youth gymnastics, a lucky health class, day trips to Massachusetts and enough air time to earn frequent flyer miles.

Reese did gymnastics from fourth to eighth grade, and she decided to list that among her hobbies in a freshman health class at Concord. That class was taught by Hayden Daly, who happens to be a Crimson Tide track and field coach. Daly happened to notice Reese’s list and suggested she try pole vaulting, which requires many of the same skills as gymnastics.

“So I took his suggestion and it kind of went off from there,” Reese said. “It took a lot of work, but it kind of came naturally to me, and the gymnastics definitely helped with body awareness and being used to being up in the air.”

Even though Reese quickly grasped the fundamentals of vaulting, she said she was “kind of average, just one of the normal pole vaulters in the state” as a freshman. She cleared 7-feet at the end of her first high school season, but didn’t compete in the pole vault in the Division I outdoor championships.

But as a sophomore, Reese started traveling to Massachusetts to train with the Patriot Pole Vault Club, which has both indoor and outdoor facilities. Those trips helped her improve her height by more than two feet as she cleared 9-6 at the Merrimack Invitational in early May of 2012. Reese had a tough day at the 2012 D-I meet and finished with a “no height result,” but she qualified for the USATF Junior Olympics that summer and then really took off last year as a junior.

Reese set a school record when she cleared 10-6 in the first meet of the 2013 season, finished second in the D-I championships with a height of 11-0, took first at the Meet of Champions with an 11-3 and then cleared 11-6 (still her personal best) to win the Bay State games last summer.

“She progressed nicely her freshman and sophomore year, but last year was just a huge year for her to get to those heights and she just crushed her personal record, so I would say last year surprised me a little bit,” Daly said. “But she works so hard at it and does all those extra things, going to Massachusetts, going over to Granite State Gymnastics, working on drills for the vault and all that stuff, so I could also see it coming that she was going to be successful.”

The points Reese earns in the pole vault certainly help the Tide team, but her dedication and work ethic may be even more beneficial.

“She’s not out there beating the drum and telling everybody what they should do, she just does it herself,” Daly said. “I always tell the kids to watch the kids that are champions and see how they warm up and what they’re doing and try to copy them because those are the best. I think the kids look at Megan and say this is what we have to do to get where she is.”

Reese hopes her hard work will lead her to a new state record this spring (12-91⁄2 is the current mark), but she knows it will lead her to Storrs, Conn., in the fall.

“UConn basically has everything I’m looking for,” Reese said. “I’m probably going to major in (biology), and they have all the academic programs I would want and so many research opportunities ... and it was the highest level of track out of all the schools I was looking at. And (UConn) Coach (Bill) Morgan is a fantastic coach and they have an impressive team, so I know I’ll be able to excel in vaulting and academically at the same time.”

The UConn women finished first in both the Outdoor and Indoor ECAC Championships in 2013 and have won nine ECAC titles in Morgan’s 10 years as head coach. Reese will have to keep improving her height to make an impact at that level (the first-place vaulter at the 2013 ECAC outdoor meet cleared 12-10, and the top nine were all at 12-0 or better), but chances are she will keep making the necessary strides.

“Megan has got a lot of the technique down, so I think her biggest challenge in college will be developing speed, which I think she will do, and she’s going to get much better,” Daly said. “That will come with more lifting and all sorts of different stuff at UConn, where they have great facilities and great coaches and she’ll be able to develop everything that she needs.”

“It’s going to be a challenge managing both school and track, but I work well when I’m under a lot of pressure,” Reese said. “I’m really just excited to be able to work with a team that’s so great at our sport and just do my best to excel with them.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)

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