Nursing graduate claims national title

Olivia McDaniel '18, pole vaulter earns goldFlipping upside down through the air has become second nature to Olivia McDaniel ’18.

The gymnast turned pole vaulter recently put the skill to good use, winning the 2019 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field National Championship in Boston, Mass., in March. McDaniel secured the title when she cleared a personal best of 12 feet-11½ inches.

A gymnast since the age of seven, McDaniel was 15 when she was diagnosed with a severe genetic heart defect. She ultimately spent 56 days in the hospital and was forced to give up competitive gymnastics. But her training – strong upper body and core, and courage – translated well to the pole vault.

“I was told gymnasts make the best pole vaulters, so I gave it a try,” says McDaniel, who received her Linfield nursing degree in December, after only 3 1/2 years, but remains eligible to compete for the Wildcat track and field team this spring. “You have to be pretty fearless to pole vault.”

Now a labor and delivery nurse at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, McDaniel says her own extended hospitalization piqued her interest in nursing.

“It’s the nurse who is by your bedside, 24 hours a day,” she says. “I knew I wanted to make that impact on people’s lives.”

At Linfield, McDaniel pursued her passion for nursing, and continued pole vaulting. She is a two-time Northwest Conference champion and a USTFCCCA academic scholar-athlete. With the title, she became the seventh Wildcat to win an individual indoor or outdoor title in track & field and the fourth in the pole vault – the most recent being Catherine Street ’12 who won NCAA indoor and outdoor titles as a senior.

Looking ahead, McDaniel hopes to break Street’s school record of 13-feet-11 inches this spring.

“I’m coming for her,” McDaniel says.

Her story was also featured in the Portland Tribune.