At the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 10, two Bomber pole vaulters won as more than just teammates — their connection stems back to a local group.
Graduate student Meghan Matheny and senior Dom Mikula dominated for the Ithaca College pole vaulting squad in the National Championships in Birmingham, Alabama. Mikula and Matheny also competed and knew each other throughout high school thanks to the Tompkins County Pole Vault Club, run by Matt Scheffler, assistant coach for the Ithaca College men’s and women’s track and field teams.
Matheny has been an elite competitor ever since joining the Bombers her first year at the college. She recorded a runner-up finish in Birmingham at 3.95 meters. This finish follows her two National Championships, with an outdoor title in 2021 and an indoor title in 2022.
Matheny said she would have loved to achieve a third National Championship, but believes this season is an example of how much she has worked to remain at such a high level.
“Obviously there is still that small part of me where I’m like, ‘I was so close to winning my third title’ and I can have that thought all day, but I’m proud of how I finished this indoor season,” Matheny said. “I think being able to be so successful over the past three years meant a lot to me and it’s been a testament to how much work I’ve put in and being able to jump at that level while continuing to be successful.”
Not only does Matheny’s performance come from her own hard work, but she said she also gives credit to Scheffler, who was the 2022 National Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year and has coached for the Bombers for 17 years.
“I think my performance is also a really good indicator of how amazing a coach [Scheffler] is,” Matheny said. “Obviously coaching me, but then also my teammates who have had a lot of success too. [Mikula], [junior] Brendan Sheehan, [senior] Martha Kemp-Neilson and [junior] Sara Altonen all were at Nationals and all of us have placed at Regionals and Liberty Leagues. It’s really a testament to his coaching ability above anything else.”
Mikula has also been very dominant on the men’s side of things. He finished runner-up in Birmingham with a mark of 4.95 meters. Mikula made the National Championships the prior two seasons and finished fourth in 2022 while finishing runner-up in 2021.
Mikula also credits his consistent dominance to the teachings and guidance of Scheffler. Scheffler coached Mikula throughout high school and has been a big part of Mikula’s career.
“Trusting the coaches that we have in the weight room, on the track and obviously coach Scheffler, trusting what he has for us in store, but also kind of doing the little things outside of practice,” Mikula said. “Coach likes to say the 22 hours outside of practice matter way more than the two hours that you’re in practice, so just doing the little things consistently throughout my years here on the team has led me to stand ahead of many other people who won’t do those things.”
Scheffler believes the camaraderie and consistency are helped by the team’s prior experience with one another.
“Having a group that’s already established, that can accept others in, it really works well,” Scheffler said. “They’ve already cheered for each other, seeing their careers developed throughout the years, and a lot of times I’ll have kids that have come from other pole vault clubs.”
Scheffler’s close relationship with Mikula and Matheny has allowed him to see their growth as pole vaulters from a young age, especially on the mental side of their game.
“I think they’re very strong competitors,” Scheffler said. “They come to win and I think that was very apparent based on how [Mikula] had the number one mark going into Nationals this year and he was the highest jumper in Division III. No one has jumped as high as he did this year, even though he ended up second at the meet itself. [Matheny] has produced many high jumps consistently throughout the year. When it came down to competition time, it was just like she had done in the past and she produced.”
Not only has Scheffler seen the two’s immense improvements during their time at the college, but he has seen a work ethic like no other, even throughout their high school careers.
“They’re that upper echelon of work ethic, you usually don’t get to that level if you don’t work hard,” Scheffler said. “[Matheny] was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had. She went to school at Lansing, where I teach, and she was our No. 3 best pole vaulter ever at Lansing. … [Mikula] is Trumansburg’s school record holder, but he wanted to be the best. You could see that no matter what, he wanted to be the school record holder there; he wanted to be the school record holder at Ithaca College, and he accomplished that very quickly. It’s through hard work.”
Mikula and Matheny have certainly had great careers with more to come during the outdoor season, but their relationship with their teammates and coach makes it even easier to reach that success.
“When we were in high school, we saw each other over the summer and in the winter when Scheffler hosted his clinic,” Matheny said. “They’re all great people, they’re my teammates, I can’t say enough good things about them, the same way I can’t say enough good things about Scheffler. They’re the reason that we’re all so successful.”