Pole vaulter Grace Yee takes control of the competition

Grace Yee launches herself away from the ground in a pole vaulting event in the 2015 season. (credit: CMU Athletics) Grace Yee launches herself away from the ground in a pole vaulting event in the 2015 season. (credit: CMU Athletics)

Junior pole vaulter Grace Yee was recently named Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III South Athlete of the Week and Carnegie Mellon Student-Athlete of the Week for Jan. 18–24 for her performance at the Denison Lid Lifter on Saturday, Jan. 23. Yee broke the school indoor pole vault record clearing the bar at 3.20 meters in the second meet of the season. The record was previously 3.10 meters and set by Lisa Marion Garcia in 2011. This is the second time Yee has broken a school record. Last spring, Yee broke the outdoor pole vault record twice. At the Dave Labor Invitational on Apr. 18, Yee bested the 3.10 meter mark set by Garcia by clearing 3.21 meters. One week later at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Outdoor Championships, she cleared a career best 3.40 meters. Though she has already proven to be an excellent athlete, the materials science and engineering major is hoping to continue turning out excellent performances on the road to nationals.

At first, Yee wasn’t sure that she would have enough time to join the Carnegie Mellon women’s track and field team. “One of my orientation counselors was on the track team and was like ‘Hey, come and try it out,’” Yee said. She decided to take a chance and join the team. “The rest is history.”

Whether it’s an unscored meet or a fight for the UAA Championship, Yee and the team are always prepared to give it their all. “I know what I need to do for warmups, what I need to eat, when I need to hydrate.” With the preparation down to a science, it’s no surprise that Yee is ready for anything. “Eyes on the prize. I always have a goal I want to reach.”

The chemistry among team members is another critical component to the individual performances. “I would describe the team as a family. Everyone from the coaches to the trainers are very supportive of each other. Even though track is very individual, the team is very supportive for each other.” Yee credits both the coaching staff and the upperclassmen for providing this environment for success. “The coaches are definitely the key to our success, and I also think the upperclassmen have given more effort to bonding with younger members over time.”

The team has been steadily improving since Yee joined it as a first-year. In 2014, the team finished with a sixth place showing at both the UAA Indoor Championships and the UAA Outdoor Championships. In 2015, the Tartans finished fifth in the UAA Indoor Championships and sent one member of the team to both the 2015 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships and the 2015 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. This year, Yee is hoping the team will do even better. “The team has gotten a lot bigger, and a lot of the freshmen are very talented.”

Considering her future beyond college, Yee is set on carving a new path. “My goal is to join the renewable technology industry. It’s been hard to see how I’m going to get there.” Yee, however, is undaunted by the challenges she will be facing. She knows that she will have quite a few friends who will help her make it through these tasks with as much encouragement as they already give her as she readies her next vault. “It makes a world of difference to know I have a community backing me up, and I always strive to return the favor.”