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World class pole vaulter from Pacolet rises to top

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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WSPA) – A Winthrop graduate from Pacolet just returned from an international pole vault competition with a gold medal, and she’s aiming even higher.

21-year-old Alina Mcdonald has several national records under her belt and is a 3-time Junior Olympic champion, with a goal of one day beating the women’s world record in pole vaulting.

“The world record is 16’7 and 3 quarters and I’m at 15’3, but being able to raise my hand grip up, I should be able to do it,” she says. “I grip a lot lower than a lot of the women I compete against.”

In July, she competed with Team USA at the NACAC (North America, Central America and Caribbean Championships) for women under 23 years old and won 1st place in women’s pole vaulting.

McDonald is working with Brian Riggs as her coach at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill SC as she completes her Masters degree at Winthrop University.

“Most of the big time coaches watch her pole vault and ask if she’s injured because she’s gripping so low and running so short, but its just our process,” Riggs says. “We’ll extend all those things and go for those much bigger jumps soon.”

Riggs developed a unique training strategy inspired by his daughter’s experience as a gymnastics and pole vault competitor.

“I’ve had no higher grip and I’ve jumped 2 feet higher than I did in high school just by improving form,” McDonald says. “So now, the plan is to work on keeping my technique while climbing up the poles.”

After being diagnosed with ADHD, McDonald attended an online public high school, South Carolina Virtual Charter Academy. Because of her online education, the NCAA deemed her ineligible for college scholarships or compete in college, but that didn’t hold her back.

“I was able to break the Junior Olympic national records for indoor, outdoor and the Hershey national record as well as the AAU Junior Olympic national record,” McDonald says.  

Now with the 2020 Summer Olympics around the corner, she’s getting ready to unleash her full potential.

Her next meet is at Vanderbilt University in December.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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