As part of the NFHS’ yearlong celebration ahead of the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, High School Today will be featuring the three female inductees in the most recent National High School Hall of Fame class – Karyn Bye, Maicel Malone and Michele Smith. In this issue, Maicel Malone discusses the lessons and character traits she learned during her high school career, and how those experiences laid the groundwork for future success. Karyn Bye was featured last month in the September issue, and Michele Smith’s interview will appear in the November issue.
As a member of the girls track and field team at North Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, from 1984 to 1987, Maicel Malone was one of the most decorated athletes in Indiana high school track and field history and was, perhaps, the first superstar in any Indiana girls sport.
She was an 11-time state champion in the 12 sprint events during her four years of competing in the state track and field meet. She won the 100 and 400 meters all four years and the 200 meters three years (finished second as a sophomore). She is still the Indiana state record holder in the 200 (23.12 in 1986) and the 400 (52.42 in 1986), and her 100-meter state record (11.52 in 1986) stood until 2015. She is the only Indiana female athlete to set three state records (100, 200, 400) in the same meet (1986). Malone (now Maicel Green) helped North Central to two state championships – as a freshman in 1984 and in her senior season in 1987.
She was a four-time NCAA champion in the 400 meters (three indoors, one outdoors) at Arizona State University, and she was a member of the 400-meter relay team that won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She won five other gold medals in international competition and was inducted into the Indiana Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1993.
Question: You were a high school student-athlete in the mid-1980s, about 15 years after Title IX legislation took effect and brought substantial growth to girls athletic programs. What lifelong lessons were you able to take from your experience in high school sports?
Malone: High school athletics are beneficial for all youth because it instills in you core values that you can’t get anywhere else. And that’s what it did for me. Growing up, playing sports helped me to learn self-discipline. It helped me learn time management and commitment and passion. It helped me set goals. It did a number of things to my self-esteem. It allowed me to just know that I can be great at something. It also teaches you how to take care of your body – healthy eating habits, healthy exercising habits – different things like that become very important later in life.
Question: Along with the opportunity to compete and learn those lessons and values, high school athletics also gave you the chance to be part of a team and to work together and form deeper relationships with fellow student-athletes at Indianapolis North Central. What sort of memories do you have of competing with your old high school teammates?
Malone: Well, for me, being a part of a high school team was especially exciting because we became a family. My junior year of high school, my coach, Bruce Blomberg, convinced me to run cross country, and that began during the coldest times of the year. But the girls who were there with me – they ran cross country, I was a sprinter – they helped me, they encouraged me every single day. They knew the pain that we were going to go through, and they were like, “come on, you can do it.” So, we built camaraderie together and we have lasting friendships. We have lifetime friendships, and we still reminisce when we see each other.
Question: Title IX was obviously of tremendous benefit to your collegiate career as well. What were some of the highlights from your time on the track and field team at Arizona State?
Malone: What sticks out to me most are my experiences at Penn Relays. Penn Relays is one of my all-time favorite places to compete. It is one of the scariest, most nerve-wracking places to compete, because you have over 60,000 people there, and that’s not including the athletes. (The meet coordinators) have done an outstanding job of highlighting and making that an amazing event. And for me, that is probably the pinnacle of my career in college because you get to compete in front of all these people, and they’re cheering you on.
Question: How did those experiences as a high school and collegiate student-athlete prepare you for the elite competition you faced at The Olympics and other international events?
Malone: For me, in international competition, I felt more comfortable out there than I did at home. (I felt) the stress of (competing at) home where you have all your hometown people and everybody that you want to impress. And then, when I went out and competed in Europe, I (felt) like I had wings and I could fly and could just go out there and enjoy it. And so, for me, it did prepare me (for international competition) and it prepared me for life too.
Question: After your competitive days, you coached track and field at the college level at Florida State University and Florida A&M University. What made you decide to give back to this current generation and get into coaching?
Malone: My former coach (at Arizona State), Tom Jones, who has since passed away, was instrumental in me going into coaching. He thought it would be a good fit for me. I was like, “I’m not sure, coach,” but I followed his advice. He was an amazing man, and him and his wife, Sandy, were instrumental in helping me move that direction because he was in coaching all his life. So, for me, it was my time to give back, and I wanted to give back. I wanted to share the opportunities with other girls and young women and help them go for their dreams in track and field. So, whatever I could share, that was my opportunity to share, and that’s why I got into coaching.
Question: What is the importance of high school coaches in the lives of student-athletes?
Malone: The relationship between a coach and an athlete is extra special because as an athlete, you’re entrusting your dreams to this (coach), and this person is taking their time and opportunity and giving it back to help you pursue your dream. And they are with you through everything – the good, the bad, the ugly, the tears, the joys. And they’re another part of your family – they’re an extended family member. So, you’re spending a lot of time with them. And so, from grades to getting on the track and feeling the pain and getting injured; if you have family issues, they are there. And so that is what’s important, and that has to be a very trusting relationship because you’re relying on them to get you to where you want to go with your ultimate goals.
Nate Perry is coordinator of media relations at the National Federation of State High School Associations.