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Bayfield’s Meshew picks Western Colorado

The high jumper picks higher altitude
Standing with parents Trent and Michele, plus Bayfield head track and field coach Josh Walton following a ceremony this past week at BHS, senior Nykole Meshew was recognized for committing to study at, and compete for Western Colorado University. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Essentially declined not once, but twice on the overt, Western Colorado University must have made Nykole Meshew a more enchanting invitation on the sly and subliminal.

Bayfield’s senior high jump specialist herself couldn’t really explain otherwise her sudden change of mind – which had been, up until recently, directing her toward an NCAA Division I program to continue her student-athlete career. And she wasn’t just entertaining the idea; Meshew was virtually ready to begin packing her bags. Until ….

“It was just right like that, overnight; that’s when I was like, ‘That’s where I need to be!’ Barely any thought at all,” she said, following a ceremony at BHS recognizing her decision to go north to Gunnison and become a Mountaineer. “I was really dead-set on Montana State, and then just all of a sudden I was like ‘It needs to be Western.’”

Sharing second place in Class 3A at the 2023 CHSAA State Track and Field Championships this past weekend didn’t devalue her stock, either. Matching Intermountain League rival Chantelle Caldwell of Pagosa Springs jump for jump (and miss for miss), Meshew maxed out at 5 feet, 1 inch before both she and Caldwell each failed thrice at 5-03 to equal Brush’s Addison Alexander.

But Meshew’s ceiling seems to be well above 63 inches; WCU knows this, having seen it firsthand.

“I went to an indoor meet there my junior year and jumped 5-02 – and matched their top jumper’s PR. And the coach was super impressed; he thought I was a senior, so he tried to recruit me. And I said, ‘No dice,’” Meshew recalled. “Then this year, I was kind of looking at other schools … but then I went to Western again, to the same indoor meet, and that’s when I broke their meet record and jumped 5-05. The coach, again, was like, ‘Come on! You’ve got to come here!’ I was like, ‘I’ll see.’”

All told, Meshew won the high jump feature at four meets (Farmington, N.M., Piedra Vista’s Turner Invitational, the Bayfield Invitational No. 1, the BHS-hosted Pine River Invitational, and Colorado Springs Doherty’s Spartan Invitational) this spring, and never finished lower than fourth (at Longmont Skyline’s Birds of Prey Invitational).

“I was solely a sprinter in middle school,” said Meshew, daughter of Trent and Michele, “and my coaches were like, ‘Hey, you should try high jump.’ I wasn’t great in middle school, but then I came up to high school and was like, ‘I’m … pretty good?’ Then my sophomore year I started excelling more, and I got injured so I couldn’t run – so I just started high jumping like crazy. And that’s kind of what led to this decision.”

“A memory I’ll never forget was when Nykole did clear 5-06 at The Pueblo Twilight,” BHS head coach Josh Walton said at the ceremony, recalling Meshew’s junior-year win inside Dutch Clark Stadium. “I’ll never forget that one of her own teammates, Deegan Barnes, screamed at the entire crowd ‘Shut up! Stop clapping!’ because she was trying to focus …. It was a great accomplishment for her.”

Increasing her versatility this year, Meshew – who placed third (5-03) at the 2022 state championships – emerged as a strong long jumper. Consistently leaping 16 feet and exceeding 17 once in competition, she won the event at four meets and in the process qualified for state, at which she placed sixth with a 16-04 best.

Not too bad for a next-level talent whose formative freshman season was canceled by the pandemic.

“Coach Walton and coach (Terene) Foutz have just been huge parts of my track career – even though coach Foutz … wasn’t my coach until this year; I didn’t long jump until this year – and they’ve just been my biggest fans,” she said. “Even when I was talking about Montana State they were in full support, but the second I told them ‘Western’ they were ecstatic.”

Fourth place at the late-February Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Indoor Championships held at Adams State University in Alamosa, then ending April at Chadron (Nebraska) State College only eight points short of a RMAC outdoor crown, Western Colorado will be sending six women – but no jumpers and just one field-event competitor – to the upcoming NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships, May 25-27 at CSU-Pueblo.

Earlier in the week, it was announced that 41 WCU track and field athletes were named to the RMAC outdoor track all-academic teams.

“I think that I can thrive there better than at a D-I college,” said Meshew, who noted an interest in pursuing pre-med studies. “I’m super excited and I’m really ready to be up there in the fall.”