I-S graduate competes in javelin event
By Holly Neumann
Former Iola-Scandinavia High School track standout Rachel Melum has wrapped up her college track career with a bang.
Melum, who graduated in May from the University of Minnesota, recently placed third in the javelin throw at the Big Ten Championship Track & Field Meet in East Lansing, Mich.
“It was an incredible meet,” said Melum, the daughter of John and Susie Melum of Iola. “I have traveled to three Big Ten meets and this was the first time I’ve ever scored. To have taken third as a first-time scorer after five years in the program was an indescribable experience.”
Melum’s journey has not always gone as planned, but said she would not change a thing.
“I’ve battled with injuries, gone through a complete event change – from high jump to javelin – and have switched coaches three times,” she said. “I could not have asked for a better ending.”
A 2010 I-S graduate, Melum compared her recent accomplishment to tying a state record on her way to winning a state high jump championship in 2009 at the WIAA State Track & Field Meet.
“From an individual perspective, winning the state meet with a record-tying 5’9” jump was the proudest I’ve felt,” she said. “All of the hard work and extra time I spent at practice was put into play, but from a teammate perspective, taking third in javelin alongside my other javelin teammates – we placed second, third and fourth – and becoming the best throws group in the Big Ten was the most impressive and exhilarating experience of my track career. I’m still in awe of what we accomplished that weekend and I will forever consider this group of women my family.”
Melum will now be heading to the University of South Alabama, where she will start work on a master’s of science degree in health. She’ll also be working as a graduate assistant coach for the school’s track team.
“I love the sport of track and field,” she said. “If javelin wasn’t so hard on my body and I was talented enough to pursue track at a professional level, I would compete for as long as I could. Now that my career as an athlete has come to an end, I am excited to start a new chapter as a Division 1 collegiate track and field coach.”
Coaching is nothing new to Melum, as she has coached high school and youth athletes the past three years.
“There’s just something about connecting with an athlete and seeing your coaching theories and their training come together for one beautiful performance,” she said. “I cannot wait to get down south and start my new journey as a coach.”
Melum believes her faith has gotten her to where she is today.
“A lot of people back home probably don’t know this about me, but I have really grown in my relationship with God in college,” she said. “My faith is the center of my life and without it, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to get through all of the trials I’ve faced in my track career.
“Each time I wanted to give up, I would look to God to guide me and every time, He renewed my strength and helped me put one foot in front of the other,” she added. “I would not have had these opportunities and success without the guidance and love God has provided me. I will be eternally grateful to him.”
A self-proclaimed go-with-the flow kind of person, Melum has no long-term career aspirations.
“I have learned to go wherever God leads me,” she said. “If this means continuing as a collegiate coach, then that’s where I’m headed. After this experience, if I’m not totally satisfied with being a coach, then I will look into working for a health and wellness company.”
Melum also has some advice for other athletes.
“Focus on the positives of a frustrating practice and/or meet,” she said. “If you have a terrible practice or game, identify the one thing that what went wrong, but then counteract that with two things that went well. I can guarantee you that you are going to have bad days, but learn from it, don’t dwell. Keep moving forward and make the next attempt, the next practice, the next game better.
“Keep working with the things that went well,” she added. “Dwelling moves you backward and rarely do you make improvements from going backward. You’re a student-athlete. Your career right now is learning. Become a student of your sport and learn from the things that went wrong, but keep moving forward.”