Patriot Pole Vault Club questioned it’s club members on Valentine’s Day last week, “When did you first fall in love with pole vault?”
I was in the 8th grade. I was a St. Bernard’s Elementary School student who found herself volunteering working at the concession stand at the outdoor District E Championships at Fitchburg High School’s Crocker Field. The only exposure I had to track and field was beating my classmates in the 50 yard dash on Field Day and jumping over a few hurdles. My older cousin Ashley Jollimore, one of Fitchburg’s top 100m dash runners at the time, was competing that day but I had been distracted from her event. I was pulled to the dark depths of Crocker Field, next to the clubhouse under the shade of the trees, next to the rushing waters of the Nashua River. Our flirtation had begun. I had told my mother that if I was going to be on the track team in high school, I wanted to do that event.
My freshman year of high school, I told the coaches that I wanted to be a pole vaulter. After the usual screening process of, “Pole vaulters are supposed to be the strongest and best athletes on the team,” or “It’s not as easy as it looks,” and “It’s going to take a lot of patience.” It only made me want to prove myself that much more. When I cleared 6 ft at practice in preparation for my first meet, that’s the day I became Fitchburg High School’s pole vaulter.
Thinking about it today, as a 4th semester senior at UMass Amherst and still a pole vaulter, that was almost 9 years ago. Pole vault and I have been together for almost 9 years this spring.
Like any long term relationship, over this past season the spark was starting to fade for me–or at least that’s what I hear happens sometimes. Personally, I wouldn’t know. It’s not that I didn’t love pole vault. I still did, but the same ol’ same ol’ was getting boring. Same heights. Same jumps. Same results–after years of learning together and growing together. I was starting to think that maybe this was as good as it was going to get.
This past weekend at the A-10 Championships, pole vault proved me wrong. With a “nothing left to lose” attitude, I was jumping like I had never done before. I grabbed the 13′ 150, and just let whatever happened happen. This wasn’t a time to criticize. This wasn’t a time to think about too much. It was time to jump. After “5, 4, 3, 2, 1″ I didn’t think. They weren’t the best jumps technique-wise, as usual, but with a clear mind and confidence the heights just kept coming.
I finished with a new personal best of 11’10″ and ran out of poles for 12’2″. Three solid attempts under my belt for the New Englands. Based on misses, I had tied for 4th with URI’s Kaylan Pickford with the same height as 3rd place. I had also bought myself another day to compete. I’ll be headed to ECACs after New Englands.
What happened with pole vault and I? Well, I just needed to stop. I needed to stop beating my head against a wall and trying to ‘fix’ and work on our relationship to make it perfect. It will never be perfect, but it will be the best that I can make it. And when it comes down to it. It’s just about the love. I love to pole vault. I love to compete. I have a lot of fun. And that’s all that really matters. Who can really argue with that?
It’s also interesting to see that now my relationship with pole vault is back on track, it rolls over to other aspects of university life. I’m more motivated to finish my last semester of classes strong instead of breezing by. I’m more focused. I don’t feel as aimless or passionless.
It feels good to have the spark back.