When I was three my father took me to my very first Track and Field Meet in Charlotte, South Carolina. We were three steps through the gate when I slipped my hand from his, ran across the track despite the race currently in process, and plopped myself down directly next to the pole vault runway, in order to watch what I thought was the coolest thing I’d ever seen: female pole vaulters scaling the heights. My papa thought it was the funniest thing in the world but wasn’t at all surprised by my actions… pole vaulting is in my blood. My great grandfather vaulted before fiberglass poles were an option, we’re talking wooden poles—usually bamboo—and the men would land on a pit of sawdust below them.
My great uncle vaulted as a boy and though he never could get his own sons to vault he won over my father and my uncle, both of whom vaulted in high school and college, my papa even choosing to stay behind and coach my uncle. Pole vaulting has been a proud family tradition since before women were even allowed to vault. Growing up I would have vivid dreams of flying over a bar, 14 feet in the air, I would watch the Olympic pole vaulting, imagining what it would be like to be Yelena Isinbayeva, the best woman pole vaulter in the world… I was obsessed.
My dreams became a reality when, during my eighth grade year my papa decided to step in and coach at the high school. By the end of my high school career I was a 10 foot vaulter, a pretty great feat for a girl despite the fact that major ankle injuries and my devotion to theatre had affected my progress, and, whether I could vault in college became a big deal and affected my decision. Tufts had always been high on my list, but once I began talking with Coach Kristen Morwick, it became even more prominent.
The morning after my high school prom, which had me up until four in the morning, I hopped on a plane, at seven in the morning, and headed to Tufts for my recruit visit/JUMBO DAY exploration. A fellow vaulter picked me up at the airport and drove me back to campus, talking the entire way about how excited she was that I’d come to visit and how much she enjoyed being a part of the women’s track team. When we arrived on campus we ate dinner with a large portion of the track team and I suddenly found myself surrounded by vaulters who were excited to swap tales of glory—and failings—and wanted to learn all about my 8-step, PR, and my favorite meet.
We talked for ages while feasting on Dewick steak and salad and, in less than half an hour, I felt accepted and welcomed and as if they genuinely wanted me to be there. My host and I then studied in Tisch (oooh yeah!), watched a pre-frosh show that included heaps of acapella (of course) and some pretty incredible dance, and then I crashed on an air mattress in her dorm, so content with how the day had gone. The next afternoon I bought a sweatshirt and wore it back to LA. When I saw my parents in the terminal I simply pointed to my sweatshirt and nodded my head… we sent in the deposit the moment we were home. That trip told me that, to Tufts, I wasn’t just another name on an application or ACT score but rather a student-athlete they wanted in their midst and were excited to have. Sending in the deposit was merely a formality, as far as I was concerned, for I had fallen in love with my school and was ready to go.
Athletics may not be the most talked about thing on campus, nor the most popular activity students choose to engage in, but being an athlete at Tufts is something to be proud of. We are treated with respect and dignity, given AMAZING resources to hone in our skills and care for our bodies, and are a part of a very special community made up of people who share your passions and will support each other no matter what. I had my reservations about joining a college athletics team for I was worried that other areas of my life would be swept under the rug, important things like academics and theatre and having a social life, but since arriving, those fears have completely disappeared.
Currently I have a job for Admissions, am uber involved in theatre, am a member of Tufts Travelling Treasure Trunk (a children’s theatre group), and am taking a full set of classes… I am busy (…very busy) but so happy to be able to pursue all the things I love and still be an accepted member of the Track and Field team, still be able to continue my love affair with the vault and score for my school. That willingness to allow a student-athlete to truly enjoy being a student is something that I’ve found is very special at Tufts and factors in to what makes Tufts athletics so special.Though the workouts are harder, and the expectations are higher, I have loved finding a community I can fit into and am excited to see where this new chapter of my vault career takes me… twelve feet, perhaps??