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Clearing the Bar

Competitive nature, desire to help others drive Menghini

Allexis Menghini at the NCAA national track and field meet

From The Ichabod - Fall 2017

Some unsuspecting kids thought they could beat their coach in a race at a recent summer camp. The challenge sparked the competitive side of Allexis Menghini, a senior on Washburn’s track and field team.

“They weren’t faster than me,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let those kids beat me. I’m really competitive.”

Menghini was the team’s only female pole vaulter last year, the first year of track and field at Washburn since discontinuing it in the 1980s. She qualified for the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets and she’s looking forward to having some fellow vaulters on this year’s team with a new crop of recruits.

“I’m excited to have some people push me in practice,” Menghini said. “It’s going to be a pride thing. I don’t want to get beat by a freshman.”

It takes a certain type of athlete to pole vault. To get a running start carrying a pole more than twice your body length, plant it in the ground and use momentum to carry you upward. As the pole bends and springs you forward and further up, you let go as your body rotates 180 degrees and you clear a bar feet first and fall safely to a mat.

Perhaps just as important as athleticism is the mentality to master the variables, ignore fear and focus on your vault.

“You have to be a little crazy and fearless, and I guess I fit the bill,” Menghini said. “But when things finally come together and there’s that little margin for error and you hit it perfectly, that’s like the best feeling ever.”

Menghini grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and dreamed of being a gymnast at the University of Nebraska. However, when she turned 12, her family moved to North Platte, Nebraska, where the sport wasn’t as prominent.

“People recommended pole vaulting since it’s the same upper body strength and body awareness,” she said.

She took the advice and was a two-time state champion at North Platte High School. She went to Nebraska and vaulted for two years before transferring to Washburn. Rick Attig, Washburn’s assistant coach, had worked with Menghini at camps throughout the region, and Menghini knew she could improve under Attig’s guidance.

“He’s coached Olympians and American record-holding pole vaulters. Everywhere I go with him, he’s a superstar in the track world,” she said.

“I think she felt comfortable with a lot of things we teach,” Attig said. “There are certain parts of the vault where, with a level of insecurity, they can feel scary. In the past, she had never been able to go to a long run. We got over that real quickly, but that extra speed sometimes brings insecurity. She’s really worked to bring that out.”

Menghini set a school record in the final outdoor event of the season with a vault of 12 feet and 6.75 inches. That height qualified her for the NCAA national meet in Bradenton, Florida, where vaulters got three chances to clear a height and then move the bar up.

“Her first two jumps, she just did what was secure and she came down on the crossbar,” Attig said. “The last jump she dealt with the insecurities – sometimes pressure will allow you to do that – and she blew it away by maybe two feet.”

She finished 18th with a vault of 11-10.75.

“It was good to see the competition and get the feel for how it’s going to go,” Menghini said. “I still have this year, so I’m excited to have gotten the experience.”

As a senior, she’ll also practice her leadership skills, something she will use in her future career in coaching or child therapy. She’s a psychology major and Spanish minor.

“I think she’ll be great with kids,” Attig said. “If you go in for the right reason, to help make people successful, that really helps. She is one of the few athletes I give coaching roles during camps.”

“I love working with children,” Menghini said. “They’re always so happy and life is so simple for them. They’re so loving and accepting.”

As long as they don’t challenge her to a race.

Menghini’s school records and postseason vaults

2017 Indoor Season

MIAA meet: 12-05.25 (6th place) (school record)
NCAA national meet: 12-04.50 (11th place)

2017 Outdoor Season

School record: 12-06.25 at Loper Last Chance Meet (1st place)
MIAA meet: 12-04.75 (5th place)
NCAA national meet: 11-10.75 (18th place)


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