Cross Country/Track and Field, Profiles, Sports

ACC champion Michelle Atherley dominates the track, stays humble

Sophomore Michelle Atherley won the women’s pentathlon with a school record and ACC Championship record score of 4,281 points to become Miami’s first ACC indoor champion of 2017. Shreya Chidarala // Staff Photographer

For most athletes, it takes years of training to become successful and renowned. Michelle Atherley is not like most athletes.

The words inked on her arm, “My ambition is my weaponry,” provide a glimpse of her dedication.

Only four years into her track and field career, Atherley is no stranger to accomplishments. At Auburn, she was the only freshman to qualify for the 2016 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. As a sophomore at the University of Miami, she has been named an ACC champion.

Atherley is also no stranger to struggle.

Her mother passed away when she was just a baby, and her father passed away early in her life. She was adopted by her stepmother into a family of six other children.

“My stepmom did everything she could to raise my brothers and I right, and I don’t want to take anything for granted,” Atherley said. “Everything I’m given is a blessing, and I shouldn’t waste it. There’s nothing to be mad about or hate about life, so everything I have is because of them and I’m grateful.”

This optimism is what keeps her grounded and grateful when her stepmother texts her, “You can do it, I’m so proud of you,” despite her lack of knowledge about track and field.

Atherley laughs and changes her pitch, trying to imitate her stepmother.

“She’ll be like ‘Oh so if your team wins, then everyone goes to nationals? Or like how do you know if you go?’” Atherley said. “I just tell her ‘That’s not how it works mother, but you know, kind of close.’”

As a child, she used to play soccer with two of her brothers, who still live in their family home in North Point, Florida. She continued to do gymnastics until she reached high school and tried every sport possible until track and field became a life-consuming hobby.

She also used to say she wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up – and the feeling has not gone away. Atherley studies political science at UM with the hopes of interning with non-profit organizations.

When she was  younger, she had no idea what the future had in store for her.

Today, Atherley’s schedule consists of weights at 6 a.m. until class at 11 a.m., practice until 5 p.m., studying to 8 or 9 p.m. and returning to her apartment with her dog, Rocky, to read Eric Thomas’ The Secret to Success before going to bed.

As a student-athlete, she lives such a planned life that it becomes difficult to do anything else off the track.

“I wish I could be involved with activities around, especially concerning the black student community,” Atherley said. “It’s busy here, you’re always going. Sleep and food are your best friends. There’s no other way to do college, that’s just my perception that I had coming in. I don’t know what else I’d do.”

Her tunnel vision once caught the eye of her former track and field coach, Dereck Walker, during her senior year.

“When I first met Michelle, she only did hurdles,” Walker said. “So when I first taught her how to long jump and triple jump I mean … she’s an amazing athlete. I never met anyone to have that athletic ability and to catch on so quickly.”

Walker recalls how Atherley would drive two and a half hours to practice and would stay the weekend at his house to train for the summer.

“By the time the year came, I had every college calling my house,” Atherley said.

Even with the attention she has received throughout her short track and field career, her roommate and teammate, Ebony Morrison, recognizes that she does not let her accomplishments get to her head.

“She doesn’t let a lot of things stop her,” Morrison said. “She’s really humble. She’s an ACC champion and she’s walking around like it’s another regular day.”

Although Walker dreams of seeing Atherley in the Olympics, Atherley sees her life as constant progression, no matter which direction it goes. Whether it is law or sports, nothing will ever stop Michelle Atherley.

March 8, 2017

Reporters

Alina Zerpa


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Hurricanes have become part of college football’s national conversation, and the more wins they ...

Kicker Michael Badgley will soon become the University of Miami’s all-time field goal leader. In the ...

University of Miami coach Mark Richt called Darrell Langham’s amazing, 28-yard catch on fourth-and-1 ...

Darrell Langham is 6-4, but might as well be 8-4 — that’s how much he has grown in stature for the M ...

The Miami Hurricanes have done it again. For the second week in a row, the Canes rallied to win in t ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

A summer 2017 excursion unlike any other united a group of University of Miami students and faculty ...

Hurricanes legends Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Warren Sapp and Sean Taylor were officially ad ...

University of Miami wide receiver Darrell Langham and kicker Michael Badgley were among those recogn ...

University of Miami redshirt setter Haley Templeton was named ACC Player of the Week, the conference ...

Freshman Bojan Jankulovski highlighted Day 2 competition on Saturday for the University of Miami men ...

The University of Miami's football game at North Carolina on Oct. 28 will kick off at noon ET o ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.