“Michaela is one of the most competitive athletes I have ever coached,” said Associate Track and Field Coach Erick Camodeca.
His confidence says a lot because Michaela Chowning (Urbanna, Va./Middlesex), a first-year student, missed her entire first indoor season of track at EMU due to a knee injury.
However, this confidence is not misplaced, because at the outdoor ODAC meet Michaela had a phenomenal day. She won the high jump competition, beating her PR by three heights, while also surpassing a two-time defending ODAC champion in the event. In doing so, Michaela flew to No. 5 on the national list, now with a good chance to advance to the national meet next month.
“It’s honestly crazy,” she said of her outstanding ODAC Championship performance. “It was kind of overwhelming, because I kind of expected it but I didn’t expect to jump as high as I did. So. That was crazy.”
Michaela is still relatively new to collegiate competition, with her first-ever meet coming just over a month before the ODAC meet.
“I partially tore my PCL [a ligament in the knee],” said Michaela, “and that was in November right before the first indoor meet.”
“I got a pretty good sense of her competitiveness during some of our early season meetings last semester,” said Coach Camodeca. “Unfortunately, due to her injury we did not have a chance to see it during the indoor season.”
Michaela’s injury forced her to be a spectator when she would have preferred to be in the midst of competition.
“It was hard because I would see all my other teammates compete,” she said, “and I would see my event going, and be like ‘wow, I could’ve done really great.’ It was just a bummer.”
However, that didn't stop her from diving headfirst into the outdoor season.
“During Indoor Nationals, Michaela begged me to compete that following weekend, even though we were scheduled to be off,” said Coach Camodeca. “That moment said everything about Michaela and her desire to compete.”
Michaela’s return to competition was not without its difficulties.
“I’m still dealing with the injury actually, so... I still feel like I'm prepping right now,” she said. “It took a lot to get my muscle mass back, and Coach Cam helped a lot with that.”
Michaela also had to overcome mental barriers since her PCL is not fully healed.
“I was so nervous,” she said. “I was scared out of my mind...I knew that I wasn’t like healed all the way. I was really scared that something bad was going to happen, but I’m getting surgery so it doesn't really matter anyways - if I tear it, I tear it, and if I don’t, I don’t.”
It takes a lot of mental strength to compete in a track meet knowing that your PCL is in danger of tearing fully, but since Michaela is scheduled to have surgery either way, that’s just what she did.
Coach Camodeca appreciates the tenacity that Michaela demonstrates.
“It is tough to find someone who matches my intensity and love of competition,” he said, “but Michaela is there, making every time she competes an emotional roller coaster.”
Now, ranked fifth in the nation, Michaela is in a good position to qualify for the national track meet on May 23-25.
“Based off of recent years’ performance lists, we feel Michaela has a very solid chance of qualifying for NCAA Championships,” said Coach Camodeca. “We plan on competing one or two more times and hopefully putting together one more performance to guarantee her spot at NCAAs.”
If she qualifies, Michaela is not going in with any expectations.
“I’ll just be happy to be there,” she said.
However, she does plan to return to the NCAA Championships in later years with the podium in her sights.
“I would like to be an All-American by the time I graduate,” she said.
And if this season is any indication, becoming an All-American athlete should be well within Michaela’s grasp.
-- by Elizabeth Nisly, EMU Sports Information Writing Intern