/Throwing far, jumping high 
Nyla Shipman (center) placed 1st in GSC’s weight throw. Photo courtesy of UM Athletics.

Throwing far, jumping high 

By Sarah Turner, Sports editor 

Competing at a high level is a major reason student athletes choose to attend the University of Montevallo, and two members of the women’s track and field team have been doing just that all season.  

Senior thrower Nyla Shipman will become just the fifth athlete in Montevallo track and field history to compete at an NCAA track and field championship meet.   

Junior pole vaulter Skylar Suggitt fell just short of qualifying, but still competed well during the indoor season. 

The NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan., take place on March 8 and 9, and Shipman will be competing in the weight throw. 

To qualify for the NCAA championship meet, an athlete has to hit a provisional standard, often referred to as “provo,”which could be a specific time, height or mark based on the athlete’s discipline. 

Just hitting provo often isn’t enough, as the meet will only accept, at maximum, the top 20 competitors from around the country based on the best times and marks throughout the season. 

Though both Shipman and Suggitt were able to hit these top-notch marks this year, their respective journeys up to this point have not been easy. 

“Coming into the team, I knew I wanted to win,” said Shipman, who committed to Montevallo after graduating in 2020 because the school was close to her home in Troy.  

The University of Montevallo’s men’s and women’s track and field teams compete year-round with elite competition from around the Southeast in the Gulf South Conference, which can make winning sometimes difficult, according to Shipman. 

In field competitions, athletes each get three opportunities to throw or jump. The top nine marks will make it through to the final round, where they will earn three more attempts. 

“My freshman year, I just wanted to make sure I made it into finals,” said Shipman, “and then when I got here and started competing, I was like, ‘Okay, now I want the school records.’” 

Shipman currently holds the hammer throw, weight throw and discus school records, and held the shot put record up until this year. 

Suggitt came to Montevallo all the way from Houston, Tex. after seeing the school on social media and getting in touch with the coaches through recruiting apps. 

“For me, it was just like chasing 12 feet since high school, and it felt unachievable,” said Suggitt, who didn’t hit the 12 foot mark, or 3.6 meters, until this season and is now the pole vault school record holder. 

Suggitt cleared a 3.77 meter jump to earn her provo mark at the Samford Bulldog Invitational in February. 

“I remember almost falling off the mat because I was so excited,” said Suggitt, “hitting provo mark was a really big deal for me, even though I didn’t make it to nationals.”  

Suggitt won the GSC gold in pole vault her freshman year, but experienced a decline in performance her sophomore year. She said that getting a new pole vault coach this year has been incredibly helpful to her success, as well as the team’s other vaulters.  

“I feel like I’ve kinda shown you can plateau for so long and come back with the resources available,” explained Suggitt.  

For Shipman, GSC gold and hitting provo happened all at once. 

Shipman had been sitting at the top of the conference weight throw standings for nearly the entire indoor season. However, the week before the conference meet, her top competitor out of the University of West Georgia took the leading spot.  

“I knew I had to work harder and throw something that I’ve never thrown before,” said Shipman, explaining that she was hesitant going into conference.  

Similar to Suggitt, Shipman steadily improved during her freshman and sophomore seasons, but fell short during her junior season, saying she thought she might have lost her potential. 

She said that this season, something shifted mentally and she knew she could come back. 

“At conference, the energy and atmosphere that you’re in has a really big influence on performance,” said Shipman. 

At the conference meet, Shipman hit a 16.89m on her first throw, and her West Georgia competitor threw a 17.89 to take the lead on her third attempt, which were both provisional marks. 

“Hitting provo wasn’t really exciting because I’m like, ‘Now I have to win,’” said Shipman.  

On her last attempt, she launched a 18.50 meter throw to take the gold. 

She said that winning conference was a relief, because she had done what she set out to do early on in the season, and had solidified her number one spot that she had held all season. 

Going into the national meet, Shipman is focusing on her preparation and mental space in order to compete at the highest level she can.  

“I’ve never been in that setting,” she said, and also explained that she’s having to make slight changes to her throwing technique in order to give herself the best opportunity for success.  

Shipman will compete in Kansas on March 8 at 4:55pm CST.

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