BEREA, Ohio -- Melanie Winters does not just like to set goals. Winters strives for success in all areas of competition, and she has become pretty good at finding it on the track and in the field for the Baldwin Wallace University women’s team.
Winters always wanted to be a multi-time All-American at an NCAA Championship Meet, and the senior standout track-and-field athlete accomplished that feat last spring. But the follow-up to a successful outdoor season in 2015 resulted in one individual national championship, three All-American performances and a first-ever team championship for the Baldwin Wallace women’s indoor track-and-field program at last week’s NCAA Division III Indoor National Championships in Grinnell, Iowa.
“It was so surreal and so unexpected it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Winters, a native of Stow and graduate of Stow-Munroe Falls High School. “I remember sitting with Kim (Gallavan) at the meet after we scored all the events just hoping that we were going to stay within the top four so that we could bring home some kind of trophy, but then, by the 3K, we realized that we actually have a chance at keeping the lead and staying in first. It means everything.”
On the first day of the National Championship Meet, Winters won the long jump with a school-record leap of 19 feet, 6.25 inches. Also, Winters qualified for the finals of the 60-meter hurdles.
During the second day of competition, while her teammate, Kim Gallavan, won the shot put with a personal-record throw of 48-feet, three inches, Winters finished fourth in the high jump and placed third in the 60-meter hurdles.
Winters scored a team-best 21 points during the two-day championship event, 10 for winning the national title in the long jump, six for her third-place finish in the hurdles, and another five for the fourth-place showing in the high jump.
“It was only the fourth time jumping this whole season,” Winters said of the long jump. “That was my fourth meet. I don’t know that I was expecting to win it. I knew I was going to do well just because I had fresh legs and I was visualizing it a lot more than the other events. Winning it wasn’t really expected, but I’m so glad I did.
“I got fourth in the high jump, which was kind of a disappointment because I was going in tied for first, and I’ve competed three other times at nationals for the high jump. I just wanted that first or second for that event, but I’m happy to get those points for the team. For hurdles, I came in third, and it was a PR, so I was glad for that. I do better with competition.”
The importance of raising one’s game in competitive situations is a lesson Winters learned early in her career at Baldwin Wallace.
“A lot of times in practice, because there’s only two multi athletes, it’s just me and one other girl, and we do a lot of our practices on our own, so we’re pushing each other, and that’s taught me a lot about how to compete against myself, but also, motivate others,” Winters said.
“Mentally, I’ve taken a long time to practice and develop my compartmentalizing ability. Freshman year, I was just horrible. I would let one event ruin my whole day, so I’ve gone a long way from that. To be able to do one event and let it be over at nationals, high jump was three or four hours before hurdles, and I didn’t do very good in high jump, but I had to push it aside and focus on hurdles. That’s helped me a lot.
“I was never good with competition before. It’s only been like the last year. That’s when I kind of accepted competition and been able to compete to my full abilities of others pushing me. Before I would just let any little mistake just stew in my mind and just ruin everything, so that’s helped.”
In watching Winters grow into an athlete who seeks out competition rather than shy away from it, the Baldwin Wallace coaches were proud of their school record-setting 10-time All-American.
“She is a very gifted athlete, and I always thought that if things lined up correctly, she could win some type of national title,” sprints/jumps coach Todd Swisher said. “I really thought that she would be a multi-event champion just because of her abilities. Friday night, when we started the long jump, she took her first one, and it was a decent jump.
“Then, her second one, it was a lifetime best, so I thought, ‘Oh, wow! This could be really, really amazing.’ What I really thought going into the weekend was she would have a better chance to win the high jump just because she had been high-jumping so well this year. Then, she hit that big long jump, and it was a great, great feeling, great thing for her. It was really just awesome to be a part of.
“She has worked very hard. I’ve been fortunate enough to guide that, help her out. When she won, it really was almost like being a proud dad. That was somebody I had helped get to that. She’s got a lot of talent, but I had been a part of it, and it was just great.”
Now an indoor national champion, Winters has now turned her focus to the outdoor season, where she has the goal of building on her four-event All-American status at the NCAA Division III Outdoor National Championships this spring.
“It was always a goal of mine to become an All-American in multiple events at one meet,” Winters said. “I accomplished that last year in outdoor, but I really wanted to see how it was going to go indoor because that’s not my strong season. I do a lot better outdoor, I think.
“With the three All-Americans I just made and the four the season before that, I’m really excited for what’s going to come this outdoor, maybe five or six if I’m lucky.”