Favre Finishes First at NCAA Championship

A sign rests on head coach Mike Jackson's office door with a quote from former NFL coach Vince Lombardi. It says, "If you don't think you're a winner, you don't belong."

Michelle Favre belongs.

The senior pole vaulter closed off her final indoor track and field event in style, capturing first place in the NCAA Championship. Favre soared over the competition with a mark of 4.05 meters at the event, which took place on Friday in Naperville, Ill.

Jackson has come to expect greatness from Favre, who previously broke the Division III pole vaulting record at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship with a 4.21-meter jump.

"If you look at every season, she's improved every year," Jackson said. "We weren't very surprised about it."

Jackson said he expected her to win "without a doubt," a sentiment that Favre echoed. 

"If I didn't win," Favre said, "it would have been a huge disappointment."

With the guidance of pole vaulting coach Branko Miric, Favre seized yet another victory to add to her laundry list of accolades.

"That was the plan. That was the vision. That's what they achieved," Jackson said.

A back injury hindered her progress last year, as Favre said she did not feel at full strength until around February. This year, however, she was able to start with a clean slate. 

"From last year to this year, all I really needed was more practice," Favre said.

Few records were safe from Favre's reach this season. She set a school landmark during her victory at the Bison Open. The previous record-holder likely did not lose much sleep over it, since it was Favre who broke the previous milestone two weeks earlier at the Army Invite.

Leading up to the competition, Favre garnered the No. 1 ranking in the nation among Division III pole vaulters. That could have placed a bull's-eye on her back, but Jackson said she handled the spotlight and lofty expectations with poise.

"It was a little added pressure," Jackson said, "but she stepped up to the plate."

Favre acknowledged that entering the day as the heavy favorite changed her mind-set. In prior years, she enjoyed fighting to climb up the rankings, but she approached nationals with the mentality of "Basically, don't screw up."

"It was difficult to put the pressure behind me," Favre said. "I was able to manage it just enough."

Freshman Emily Shipley also stepped up to pole vault, tying for 13th place with a 3.45-meter jump. Jackson said performing as a rookie with Favre stealing the spotlight created a low-pressure situation for Shipley to get a taste of national competition.

"For her as a freshman, it was the perfect time for her to go," Jackson said. "Hopefully she'll be the next National Champion in the pole vault."

Favre also set Shipley's future prospects high, saying she "did just as well as I did freshman year." She was also glad to be there to guide Shipley through an experience that Favre described as nerve-wracking for a newcomer.

Senior Anita Rogers competed in three events over the weekend. On Friday, she finished seventh and received All-Conference honors in the long jump after clearing 5.47 meters. On Saturday, she finished fourth in the triple jump at 11.87 meters and joined a team that earned eighth place.

With the outdoor track and field season kicking off this weekend, neither Jackson nor Favre were afforded little time to reflect on their indoor success. Jackson began preparing during the National Championships and shifted his full attention to the upcoming season the second it ended.

"As soon as the meet was over, I was thinking of outdoors," he said.

With the first meet taking place tomorrow in Charlotte, N.C., Favre is already putting her indoor accomplishments in the rear-view mirror to focus on her new frontier. She anticipates a less stressful semester as a result of achieving so many of her goals during the winter season, but that doesn't mean she is not hungry for more. Favre aims to break the outdoor and national record en route to qualifying for the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

"After nationals, I'm able to relax more now," Favre said. "There's not as much pressure to do it again."