Maci Bunting has been a high jumper for Charlotte track and field for five years. She has left a lasting impact on the team, and she hopes she has created lifelong relationships with teammates and coaches while leaving a legacy.
After graduating last May, Bunting decided to come back for a fifth year. This season she has left a legacy on the sport that she loves. Bunting feels that she has taken strides this year while proving herself.
"This year has proven that I stayed here for the right reasons," said Bunting. "It wasn't just to stay in school longer and decide what I wanted to do with my life. It was something that I truly did for my love of the sport. I love high jumping; it's something that has been a big part of my life for so long."
Bunting started high jumping in middle school and continued into her junior and senior high school years. Bunting didn't realize track and field would be a path for her in college until her high school coach mentioned it. After that conversation, she knew she wanted to do track and field in college.
"I seriously had no idea that that was even possible for me. When I knew that was something that I could do, I immediately was like, yes, I want to do that," said Bunting.
Bunting soon realized that Charlotte was where she wanted to go during her recruitment. Multiple factors drew her to the program, and she fell in love with what the university had to offer.
"I knew on my official visit that I would choose Charlotte. The atmosphere, people, experience and the wonderful reputation of the athletic program all drew me here," said Bunting.
In Bunting's five-year career with the 49ers, she has many accomplishments. Still, she considers her 1.70m, 5'7" outdoor personal record and being part of the 2019 outdoor team that won the Conference USA (C-USA) championship her most significant feats.
"That was super awesome to experience with my team and the people who were like older brothers and sisters to me because I was still pretty young on the team then," said Bunting. "That was huge because it was also a few days after the shooting had happened on campus. I can speak for my entire team, that day that we put all our hearts and souls out there to compete for our school after that tragedy happened."
Bunting has grown as an athlete and, most importantly, as a person during her time at Charlotte. She will take multiple life lessons away from her tenure with the team, including hard work and perseverance.
"I have those bad days where I'm just like, 'Why did I choose to do this?'," said Bunting. "'This is not going well for me. I don't want to be here.' But those bad days remind you how hard you have to work. When you have good days, they remind you why you have to go through the hard times."
Perseverance has helped Bunting reach new heights in her collegiate career.
She believes that trusting the process is crucial and has been rewarding.
"When I finally cleared 5'7", that was rewarding because I was able to say, 'Okay, this is why I'm here.' I'm glad that I pushed through those bad days, and I was able to stay with it and trust the process through it," said Bunting.
Bunting credits former teammate Sydney Blue for helping instill a positive mindset in her. Bunting reflects on how Blue was one of her greatest inspirations on the team and the relationship they shared.
"She [Blue] had a positive attitude and outlook on everything," said Bunting. "She was always the first one there to pick me up. When I was beating myself up at times, and when I thought that maybe track wasn't for me, she always came up to me and said, Maci, you've got this. You're here for a reason."
The family aspect is what Bunting will miss most about Charlotte's track and field. This year, she has given back by being a mentor to the next generation.
"I wanted to give my teammates somebody they could come to, somebody who's been through what they've been through," said Bunting. "I want to make sure that I led with my team, that foundation that we are a family, and that we are there for one another."
Bunting's dedication to track and field, her teammates and school have become significant parts of her. Even though her days of competing are coming to an end, she has left a legacy at Charlotte.
"I believe in leaving things better than you found them," said Bunting. "I want to make sure that my team gets that community feeling. Making that effort and bonding and ensuring that we're still a loving and supporting team is something that I want to leave behind."
Bunting and the Charlotte track & field team still have work to do as they will compete in the Liberty Twilight Qualifier on Wednesday, May 4. The team will also compete in the C-USA Championships from Thursday, May 12, through Sunday, May 15. Bunting looks to finish her college career strong in these events.