From Coal Ridge to cadet: Former Titans track star Mikayla Cheney makes strides at West Point

Mike Vidakovich
For the Post Independent
Mikayla Cheney runs in a dual meet against Navy back at West Point in October.
Lynn Nielson/Courtesy

As the end of her decorated career at Coal Ridge High School neared its completion late last spring, Mikayla Cheney had narrowed her college choices to two schools that were not only on opposite ends of the country, but on drastically opposite ends of the lifestyle spectrum.

With offers to run track and cross country at both Division I schools, Cheney deliberated back and forth until the spring turned to summer, weighing the merits of the sunny beaches and laid back lifestyle of California at San Diego State University, or the rigid academics and discipline at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

“I really liked the coaches when I made my recruiting visit to West Point. That was the deciding factor in my choice,” said Cheney. “I felt like I had the talent to succeed here both academically and athletically. I’ve always been good at having a full plate of things to do and a heavy workload. When I see the type of people that this place (West Point) produces, I’m proud just to be here. I have already met so many fellow cadets who have been transformational in my life.”

Along with being named to the National Honor Society all fours years at Coal Ridge, receiving the AP Capstone Award, and representing her senior class as Salutatorian, Cheney was also a 4-year letter winner for the Titans in multiple sports, compiling athletic accolades that are almost too numerous to mention.

Cheney remembers her sophomore year, helping the Coal Ridge girls win the class 3A state track and field championship by individually capturing the 800-meter crown as one of the highlights of her time as a Titan. To go along with her cross country and track accomplishments, Cheney was also named all-conference in soccer her junior and senior seasons, along with garnering the same award in basketball her senior year.

Now nearing the end of her first-ever collegiate cross country season, Cheney’s day is slightly different than the average college freshman, or plebe, as she is now known.

Wake up call is 5:45 a.m. for her F4 Frog Company, which is followed by morning formation and then breakfast. Classes take up the majority of Cheney’s day from 7:40 a.m.-3 p.m. Then, she is off to cross country practice from 3:30-6 p.m. Much like the academic portion of the day, cross country practice at Army is regimented. Stretching, running, lifting, a balance and mobility session are all followed by the end of practice icing down the body routine.

With so many daily demands on her time, Cheney doesn’t have a lot of idle moments to check out the college scene or attend parties.

“There really isn’t a lot of free time here,” Cheney said. “But I do enjoy hanging out with my teammates and relaxing with them whenever I can.”

So far this fall, Cheney has recorded a personal best 5k time of 18:07 at a season-opening meet at the University of Maine. Most of the women’s cross country distances at the collegiate level are 6K’s though, and just a few weeks ago at the annual Army/Navy dual meet at West Point, Cheney finished 9th overall, scoring much needed points for her team. Cheney is looking forward to the upcoming Patriot League meet at Colgate University where she feels Army will have a good chance to finish near the top of the standings along with Navy and Boston University.

Cheney’s coaches are still experimenting with where to place her in the upcoming indoor and outdoor track seasons, but they are leaning toward the mile run and even the steeplechase as the two events they think she can excel in.

To an outsider looking in, it may have come as a bit of a surprise for a talented young lady from the mountains of western Colorado to bypass the breaking waves of Southern California for the demands of a military academy, not to mention the 5-year commitment to serve in the army that Cheney will have following her days at West Point. To those who know her, the decision to follow the military path came as little surprise.

Cheney will succeed at whatever she chooses to do. She always has. The former Coal Ridge standout also carries with her a heartfelt belief in the United States of America at a time when many people question everything they see around them.

“I feel very lucky to be at such a great place and to be able to serve my country,” said Cheney. “To be able to give back to all of the people who have helped me along the way is important to me. It’s an honor and a responsibility I take very seriously.”

Oh, by the way

Army won the Patriot League women’s cross country championship this past Saturday, Oct. 28, at Colgate University. They edged out Boston University for the title. Mikayla Cheney placed 9th overall. It’s the first time the Army women have won the title since 2004. They will be running in the NCAA Eastern Regionals on Saturday, Nov. 12.

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