By BRIAN JENNINGS
Recent graduate Ava Coleman had been tearing up the high school competition as a track and field superstar for the Tigers of Mercy High School in Middletown. During her junior and senior years, the Southington athlete catapulted towards new heights and honed her skills to be a Division I, Tier I student-athlete.
That’s why it’s no surprise that, this fall, she will be competing as a different kind of cat—A Villanova Wildcat.
“I am really happy and excited for what is ahead of her,” said Mercy High School track and field and cross country coach, Katie Schumann. “Villanova is a nationally known for their cross country and track and field program. We don’t even have a track at Mercy, so the fact that she will have access to great coaching and resources—which will help develop her potential—is huge for her.”
As captain of the Mercy track and field team, Coleman has broken her own school records in the pole vault (11’4”), 55m hurdles (8.98), and 100m hurdles (15.48) since her first year of high school, leading her team to four consecutive Southern Connecticut Conference championships during the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.
Last winter, Coleman was the West Sectional, SCC, and Class L champion in the pole vault, playing a pivotal role in Mercy’s first ever Class L championship as a first team all-conference and all-state selection. She also was crowned as the SCC champion, making first team all-conference, in the 55m hurdles as well.
During the spring, Coleman was the West Sectional, SCC, and Class L champion in the pole vault, making first team all-conference and all-state. She eventually went on to finish runner-up at the state open in the pole vault, qualifying for the New England Interscholastic Track and Field Championships.
Before joining the track and field team as a freshman, Coleman competed as a high-level gymnast, but carried her athleticism from the mats onto the track.
“She had that competitive experience,” said Schumann. “Stepping into track and field wasn’t anything different, in terms of competing. It was different in the events that she was doing. She still took that same mentality. Instead of doing it on the balance beam, she did it on the hurdles.”
It’s surprising to find out that it wasn’t until the end of her freshman year that Coleman picked up a pole for the first time, mainly running in the 55m hurdles.
“She may have wanted to start with pole vaulting, but we just did not have the resources for her to try it until later in the year. She came in with great form, and was in with really good shape. We really didn’t have to change a whole lot. We just had to teach her how to hurdle and vault.”
After her freshman year, Coleman flourished and grew into an altruistic leader, putting her teammates ahead of herself.
“Track and field is usually an individual sport, but she helped enhance the team aspect of the sport for our team,” said Schumann. “She served as a large part in helping our team win four SCC titles and our school’s first ever Class L title last spring.”
Coleman’s attention to details is what Schumann said sets her apart from other athletes in the field.
“She just loves the whole process,” the coach said. “The technique and timing of pole vault take years to master, and requires a lot of patience, but she is beginning to learn how to slow down and take her time when it comes to the small technique and timing aspects. That makes a large difference.”
Being extremely determined and goal-oriented are just some of the Coleman’s qualities that Schumann said will help her exceed at the collegiate level.
“Have other high-level vaulters as teammates will also help push her as well,” said Schumann. “She just loves being on a team and has fun vaulting. Those are two aspects you can’t coach, but are vitally important for success.”
Away from the track, Coleman was a member of both the National and Spanish Honor Societies, maintaining highest honors throughout all four years at Mercy High School. She also served as student body president.
Coleman will compete under women’s head coach Gina Procaccio at Villanova.
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