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Anna Paradee's senior indoor season was highlighted by a GNAC athlete of the week selection, as well as a spot on the Division II All-American second team. // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics

By Malia Cantimbuhan

Anna Paradee broke her personal record, the school record and became an All-American in one jump.

Paradee is the athlete every coach hopes will come through their program. Her coaches describe her as having an impressive raw athleticism, who is also passionate, driven and dedicated to her sport and teammates.

Before Paradee became a pole vaulting champion, she was a competitive gymnast for 10 years in her hometown of Federal Way, Washington. She began in elementary school and continued all the way through high school.

During her freshman year of high school, one of her high school gymnastics coaches, who was also the high school pole vault coach, encouraged her to try out pole vaulting. She did and ended up having a successful first year. She stuck with pole vaulting throughout the rest of her high school career and hasn’t looked back since.

Paradee, who is now a fifth-year student at Western, looked at multiple schools before choosing to become a Viking. She said the track program was one of the biggest factors when deciding. She considered Division I schools, but when she visited them, she said it didn’t feel like they were the right fit.

“I didn’t really feel like I was going to get the attention that I wanted to be a successful athlete. I felt like I wasn’t good enough coming out of high school to go to Division I,” Paradee said. “When I visited Western, it just felt right. It felt like I was really going to be supported as an athlete. And as a person, I felt like I was going to be a valued part of the team, not just some freshman walk-on.”

And valued she was.

Paradee earned titles as Great Northwest Athletic Conference Outdoor Pole Vault Champion in 2016, 3.53m, U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division II All-American in 2017, and GNAC Indoor Pole Vault Champion in 2017. She also beat Western’s pole vault record of 3.90 meters, previously set by Karis Anderson in 2012, with a 3.92-meter vault at the 2017 NCAA II Indoor Championships.

Paradee believes her successful collegiate career has been due to the support of her coaches. She said throughout the years, her teammates change as they graduate, but her coaches will always be there.

Paradee’s teammate and best friend, Rachael Robert, said she looks up to Paradee on and off the field.

“She is confident, she is a leader and she is incredibly kind, ” Roberts said. “She’s always someone that you can go to for advice. She’s always willing to help anyone that’s around her. No matter if she has time for it or not. It makes things hard for her, of course, but she cares so much about the people in her life.

Previous Western pole vault record-holder Karis Carter is Western’s Pole Vaulting Coach, and has been coaching Paradee for the past five years.

Carter described Paradee as a competitive athlete with resilience, who executes well under the pressure of competition. She recognizes Paradee as a person that will always be the first to help. Whether it’s coaching the pole vaulting camp at Western or being a stellar charity campaigner  for the program, Carter said she’s there to represent the Vikings.

Carter said there’s one day that she’ll always remember from her time coaching Paradee.

“The greatest moment I had with Anna was when she broke the indoor school record at [the 2017] Indoor Nationals. I held the record before Anna and I knew Anna was going to be breaking that record after her freshman year. It was just a matter of time,” Carter said in an email. “In that moment, time slowed as she went over that bar. As a coach, coaching one of your athletes to break your own record is one of the best feelings ever.”

Paradee said the indoor championship title meant a lot after redshirting last winter.

“Last time I competed indoor, I won a title. But the last two times I competed outdoor, I lost.” Paradee said. “I didn’t jump as well as I had wanted at those outdoor meets. It could have been a time where I put a lot of pressure on myself because you know, you want the win and you want the recognition for all the hard work that you put in and sometimes it doesn’t come together at the meets, but this time it did.”

The GNAC Indoor Track & Field Championships this past February was her last conference with Western, and taking home the win made the title that much more special.

“I think I just went there and proved that I am still a competitor and that I have more things to come with nationals coming up this week,” Paradee said.

In early March, Paradee competed for a national title at the 2019 NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships in Pittsburg, Kansas, coming in 12th and taking home Second Team All-American honors. It was Paradee’s third time being named to an All-American team.

After graduating from Western, Paradee said she will go on to graduate school at the University of Puget Sound to pursue a career in physical therapy. She said she’ll also continue to be involved with the track program at Western. She said her involvement will include coaching the Western Pole Vaulting Camp in the spring and, when Carter can’t make meets, she will be there to coach Western athletes.

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