May 25, 2017
By JEFF FEBUS
In a book filled with many chapters, Michaela Meckes is set to write the final verse in the Meckes family track and field tradition at Calvin College.
A graduate of Saginaw Valley Lutheran High School, Meckes will become the fourth member of her family to compete at the NCAA III Track and Field Championships Thursday morning when she competes in the women's discus throw.
A native of Bay City, Michigan, Meckes is seeded fourth in the event. A week ago, she became just the second individual in Calvin women's track and field history to throw the discus more than 160 feet as she tossed a throw of 160-4.
The only other individual in Calvin women's track and field history to surpass the monster throw is her own throwing coach - Katie (Corner) Dean who holds the school record with a throw of 167-1 and was a three-time NCAA III All-American in the event including a two-time national runner-up.
Competing next to track and field All-Americans is nothing new for Meckes however as her older brother Nate Meckes was a five-time NCAA III All-American from 2003-to-2006 including a national runner-up in the shot put and discus. Brother Josh Meckes was an All-American for the Knights in the long jump in 2007. Brother Aaron Meckes was an All-American for Calvin in the shot put in 2012.
Over the last four years, Michaela has carved out her own niche within the Calvin women's track and field program, winning the MIAA outdoor title in the discus the last three years while consistently scoring in the shot put at the conference meet.
It was not until last weekend at a last-chance meet hosted by Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, that Meckes took things to a different level while competing in the discus throw.
After a powerful group of throws in the discus warm-ups, she proceeded to whip out two long heaves that sailed just foul. Needing one strong clean throw to advance to the finals, Meckes not only put the disc in play but surpassed her career best by more than a foot-and-a-half to vault her cleanly into the NCAA III Championship field.
"I've had a few problems with my back this spring but my back has really settled down lately and I've felt good," said Meckes. "At Augustana I felt really good and the wind was just right. My first two throws came out nice but they were just out-of-bounds. I knew that the next throw could be the last of my collegiate career so to see it land far and in-bounds was pretty amazing."
The strong improvement by Meckes this spring is due in part to a strong off-season of preparation according to Calvin throwing coach Katie Dean. ""Michaela has heightened her focus and preparation this year and now it is paying off," said Dean. "Now our focus turns to nationals. This (nationals) is a goal she has been striving for and now she has an opportunity to reach even higher goals. It is exciting to watch."
The push for a big senior year began this summer said Meckes. "I think my biggest thing was having someone to hold me accountable," she said. "(Calvin men's thrower) Erick Holder was around last summer and he was also keeping me accountable, making sure I was staying on top of my training, doing the things I needed to do. Having that kind of a system in place was very important. My coaches were also there always pushing and believing in me. My brothers also kept encouraging me too. I realized that I wasn't just competing for myself. I was also competing for everyone who has invested in me."
Perhaps her biggest supporters have been her parents Dan and Janelle Meckes who have been traveling to Calvin track and field competitions since 2002, often watching through snow, sleet, wind and rain.
"Oh I don't know if I have always enjoyed all of the weather but I've definitely enjoyed getting to know the members of the team, the coaches and following our children," said Dan Meckes with a grin earlier this spring. "It's a good team-building group where our sons and our daughter have been able to find a family while away from family."
His wife Janelle has also witnessed the same bonds build throughout the years. "I have loved spending time getting to know the Calvin student-athlete," she said. "They truly care for one another and we've been blessed to have our children be a part of Calvin College and its track and field program. I've enjoyed traveling to the meets, meeting new people and spending time with our children. It's been great."
Their daughter Michaela will head into Thursday's discus competition with a calm attitude. "I spoke with Norm Zylstra who coached my brothers at Calvin and he told me that once you get to nationals, it's all gravy," she said. "I'm just excited to compete and put my best out there. It will be a great way to end my senior year."
Meckes was graduated from Calvin last Saturday with degrees in Spanish and business finance.
She has been interning underneath former Calvin men's track and field and men's basketball athlete Eric DeVries at E3M Solutions - a company that focuses on efficient energy management and solutions. She will work full-time this summer for the company before a three-week European vacation in August that will include a trip to the World Track and Field Championships in London at the Olympic Stadium.
"I've got tickets for four days and five sessions," she said. "I'll be able to see events like the shot put and the decathlon. I'm just really excited to see some awesome track and field."
When surveying her own collegiate career, Meckes can look back on remarkable team success. Her efforts have helped the Calvin women's track and field program capture four MIAA outdoor titles - adding to the current streak of 28 consecutive league crowns - while also claiming the first two MIAA indoor titles as well. The men's program has also claimed four outdoor league titles and an indoor crown as well during that span.
"I've always been amazed at the people on our teams and their abilities," said Meckes. "I can't do too much beyond throwing so for me it's amazing to see people who can run so fast, run so far or jump so high. It's also been cool to see people grow as athletes over the last four years. Some of the people I came in with as freshmen have turned into real powerhouses as seniors like a Jordan Kramer or a Lauren Strohbehn in the distances. It's been a blessing to be a part of the Calvin track and field program, without a doubt."