EDMOND – Madison Berryman wasn’t a star. Or at least that’s what she said coming out of Piedmont High School.
Now a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, she owns UCO’s 60-meter indoor sprint record, the school’s record high score for the heptathlon and the school’s javelin record.
But for most of her high school athletic career she was on the cheer squad and played tennis. Berryman always liked track and field, but gave it up after competing in seventh and eighth grade and part of her freshman season to focus on other sports.
Fast forward to her junior year and she still wasn’t on Piedmont’s track team. PHS was good, though. So good they won a state championship. But after their championship season in 2009, PHS lost some key cogs, including sprinter Katie Jirak.
The coaches and players on the team knew Berryman could run, so they started recruiting her to join the next season’s team.
“My senior year I actually played tennis and ran track,” Berryman said.
As her senior season progressed, her chances of winning a state title in tennis grew slim. And with the state championships for tennis and track scheduled to overlap, Berryman had a choice to make.
“It came down to a point where I was probably going to get fifth at tennis state or I could win a state championship in track,” she said.
Berryman chose track and helped the Lady Wildcats win their second of back-to-back to state championships. She played a big role as a sprinter, relay runner and a long jumper on the team, and her raw athletic ability didn’t go unnoticed.
UCO head track and field coach Martha Brennan saw potential in Berryman and offered her a scholarship.
“The first time we saw her was probably at the state meet,” Brennan said. “She was long jumping well and she ran the relays. Any time a kid has experience in multiple areas you know they can probably do something for you.”
Berryman had options. Scholarship offers from multiple schools in both track and cheerleading awaited her. With an offer from UCO on the table, Berryman visited the school with her family.
She left committed to the Bronchos and her dad, Jim, says he knows why.
“It’s a little embarrassing to say, but I think what sold her was a pink javelin,” he joked. “After she saw it she said, ‘Oh, I want to go to school here.’”
Berryman signed with UCO at the end of her senior year of high school. When she got to school in the fall, her raw athleticism still had to be refined.
“Coming out of high school I had no idea how to high jump or run correctly,” Berryman said.
There wasn’t a shortcut to becoming more fundamentally sound. She worked hard every day and improved her times and techniques.
Her hard work made her a record breaker as a sophomore at UCO. Despite having never practiced throwing the javelin in high school, Berryman broke the school record for javelin and qualified for NCAA Division II Nationals in Pueblo, Colo., finishing 16th.
Now, she says, javelin is the event she looks forward to most, even if the slim, 5-foot-5 senior doesn’t exactly fit in with the athletes she competes against.
“It’s actually kind of funny. We have pictures from nationals and I was the smallest girl,” she recalled. “I was shorter, and scrawnier; all those girls were really big and strong.”
During her junior season, Berryman did something that surprised even herself, she said. Berryman ran a 7.76 second 60-meter dash, shattering UCO’s previous school record of 8.17 seconds that had stood since 1999.But she wasn’t done breaking records.
Later that season she scored a 4771 in the heptathlon, eclipsing the previous school-best mark of 4770 set in 1988.
The heptathlon incorporates seven events spread through two days. The 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot-put, 200-meter run, the long jump, followed by the javelin throw and 800-meter run.
Berryman’s biggest fans, her mom and dad, aren’t surprised by her success.
“Her mom and I expected her to do really well,” Jim Berryman said. “Because that’s just what she does.”
Berryman credits her transformation from raw athlete into refined record breaker to her own hard work and the help of Brennan and her dad.
“My dad knows the numbers. Every meet he has his iPad out, crunching the numbers seeing what I have to do,” she said. “I also credit coach Brennan. She had to teach me the technique for seven events. I just credit her for putting up with me.”
Because Berryman’s expected to perform now, she feels extra pressure to put up good numbers. She thinks that added pressure might’ve kept her from reaching her full potential at nationals as a junior. And with one year of eligibility remaining, the former Lady Wildcat has a new mindset heading into her final season.
“This year I have a goal just to be relaxed. Whatever happens, happens,” she said.