Teammates often remind Maddie Taylor that she’s a year older and a little wiser than they are.
“I even call myself grandma because I’m older than everyone,” said Taylor, a redshirt junior high jumper for the Western Washington University track and field team. “I love being around my teammates.”
And they like that fact that the 22-year-old Taylor decided to land in Bellingham, a decision that has paid off for the 2014 Auburn Mountainview High School graduate who transferred to Western after two seasons at the University of Montana.
Taylor has made the most of her opportunity.
She has been at her best this winter season, climbing 5 feet, 8 inches in her specialty, the second-best mark in WWU indoor history and the sixth-best height in Great Northwest Athletic Conference indoor history.
For her efforts, Taylor is off to NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday and Saturday in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Taylor will join teammate Anna Paradee, a senior pole vaulter from Federal Way, for the nationals.
“The two are outstanding student-athletes and will be great representatives of Western Washington University at the national meet,” said WWU coach Pee Wee Halsell. “I am excited to see how they perform on the national level and expect both of them to give their best performance of the season as they compete for the national title.”
The 6-foot Taylor is poised for a good showing, capable of clearing the bar at 5-8½, even higher.
“I’ve been having a chance at jumping these higher heights, which is great because I’m not afraid of it,” Taylor said. “When I get there for nationals it’s not going to be a surprise or scary.
“I’d love to win it but more than anything, with this being my first time going, my expectation is to try and have fun with my teammates, stay calm and focused,” Taylor said. “More than anything, it’s a great opportunity to (perform) at a higher level of competition. That’s really exciting.”
Taylor has found a home in Bellingham after beginning her collegiate career in Missoula, Montana. Wanting to go to someplace new, Taylor found Montana to be too far away from home.
“Missoula was great, but it was awfully far,” she said. “I didn’t realize at the time how impactful it is to be close to my family.”
Taylor’s two sisters have since joined her at Western. Her parents live nearby.
Should she decide to do so, Taylor has one more indoor season of eligibility to compete. She is on course to graduate this spring with a degree in kinesiology, with a health and humanities emphasis. She may pursue a masters in nutrition or athletic performance, with the dream of one day developing a recovery program for injured athletes.
Taylor, who transferred to WWU from the University of Montana, heads into the national championships ranked No. 8 in Division II, clearing a personal best of 5 feet, 8 inches at the season-opening UW Preview. The redshirt junior owns the second-best mark in WWU indoor history and is tied for sixth-best in Great Northwest Athletic Conference indoor history.
Paradee, a Decatur product, will compete in her fourth career NCAA Championships, earning first-team All-America honors with a seventh-place finish at the 2017 nationals in Birmingham, Ala. She also competed in the outdoor championships in 2017 and 2018.
The eight-time All-GNAC selection enters the national meet tied for 11th in the nation with a season-best mark of 12-8.25 obtained last weekend at the SPU Final Qualifier. Paradee owns a lifetime indoor best and the WWU program record of 12-10.25 set at the 2017 national championships.