One year ago, the pentathlon was a brave new world for Hagerstown Community College athlete Micaela Fleetwood.
The 2017 North Hagerstown graduate made her mark in high school primarily in longer sprints, the 300 hurdles and the long jump. But as a Hawks freshman, coaches Mike Spinnler and Andy Reid started selling Fleetwood on being a multi-sport athlete.
In the pentathlon, that would mean doing five events — the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800.
"She wasn't very receptive at first. She said, 'I don't know if this is going to be for me.' She saw herself as a hurdler," said Spinnler. "But she's the type of lady who likes challenges, and once she saw this isn't for everybody … she stepped up to it. When we told her she has potential in it, she was receptive and this ended up being her forte."
Despite her inexperience in most of the events, Fleetwood managed to earn one of 16 qualifying spots for the 2018 NJCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. She entered as the 14th seed and finished 12th.
"Last year, I definitely had more nerves going in because it was such a new environment for me," said Fleetwood.
Twelve months later, it's a totally different feeling for Fleetwood as she returns to indoor nationals, being held Friday and Saturday at the Prentice Gudgen Complex in Pittsburg, Kansas. Already an All-American — having finished seventh in the heptathlon at outdoor nationals last spring — Fleetwood enters Friday's pentathlon seeded seventh, with the top eight earning All-American honors.
"Overall, I'm just super excited. I like the whole environment and I'm just excited," Fleetwood said. "This year, I know what to expect, not just from my competitors but from myself in the events. That gives me a lot more confidence going into it."
"This year, she's not showing up just to say, 'I'm a national qualifier,'" Spinnler said.
Fleetwood earned her spot at nationals by scoring a personal-best 2,742 points to finish fourth out of 12 athletes — behind three NCAA Division I competitors — at the Frank Colden Invitational at Ursinus College on Feb. 1.
A comparison of her performances last year and this year reveals her impressive improvement. Her top 60 hurdles time has improved from 9.94 seconds to 9.59. Her best shot put throw was 27 feet, 10¼ inches last year, but is 29-8¼ this year. She has improved from 14-8¾ to 15-4¼ in the long jump. She also has a PR of 2:40.40 in the 800 this season.
"I'm kind of getting a better feel for the different events now," Fleetwood said. "Since I got my official qualification, I've improved in all my events in practice. It's just making sure I'm maintaining that progress and continuing to grow. Being stagnant is not the goal. The big goal is putting everything together. Sometimes I'll PR in one thing one day, but if I can put it all together (at nationals), that would be perfect."
"The events she was weak in because they were so new to her, she has picked them up. She's a quick study and is not afraid of hard work," Spinnler said. "The throws that were detrimental to her as a freshman aren't anymore."
That's because of Fleetwood's work ethic, which extends into the classroom.
"To be a multi competitor at the college level is very challenging. It's not uncommon for multi athletes to train three, four, five hours a day, and when you're trying to be a true student-athlete and balance that, it's very demanding," Spinnler said. "You've got classes to complete, term papers and sometimes jobs. It doesn't leave a lot of time for anything other than academics and sports. And Micaela's good at that. She's very dedicated."
- Herald Mail Media