Anchored in the efforts to spotlight Ontario University Athletics (OUA) student-athletes, the initiative See How She Got Started showcases and tells the story of how some of the conference’s talented student-athletes first got involved in sport and have made their way to the varsity stage on which they currently shine. It is also hoped that their stories can inspire young athletes to aspire to compete in varsity-level sports.
Track & Field (Athletics)
Year of Eligibility -
Program of Study -
How did you first get involved in your sport?
I had been involved in competitive gymnastics for 11 years. As I was heading into into high school, my gymnastics coach recommended to me that I look into learning more about pole vault. Many of my older teammates had done it. I then got in contact with the coach of a city-wide program for any high schoolers interested in pole vault. I was extremely lucky that there was such a program available close to where I lived. Eight years later, I’m still involved with the sport, and, it’s gone full circle as I’m now coaching for this same high school pole vault program.
What most interested you about your sport that made you want to pursue it at a high level?
I really enjoyed the fun, challenging aspect that pole vault uniquely has. There are very few sports where you have to fling yourself over a bar while putting your absolute trust in a fiberglass pole that will help you fly. Once I reached the university level of my sport, training with our amazing team was what pushed me to continue to pursue higher heights. I am a competitive person, but training with teammates who wanted to get better just as much as you did really helped me not tone my competitiveness down. Instead, it celebrates the drive we had to compete at a high level.
Was there a specific moment/experience that led you to believe you could compete in your sport at a high level, and if so, what was it?
As I entered university, I didn't have a standard to compete for the team at a collegiate level. Knowing this made me debate whether or not to even try out because I was so discouraged after my last high school season.
However, I was fortunate enough to have a coach that encouraged me to try out and train with the team during base season to help my development. It was such a pleasant surprise that during a club meet in the winter we went to, I not only got a personal best, but jumped standard for the team - and then two heights past it. I still remember how I felt in that moment, knowing I had secured a spot to compete and made a personal best for the first time in 3 years. Relief, pride and gratefulness for a coach and my teammates that pushed and believed in me.
I have not looked back since. With each subsequent school year, I want to work harder and have higher goals because I know I belong and can compete at a higher level in my sport.
What is your fondest memory/experience of being involved in your sport thus far?
My fondest memory would have to be the same answer to the last question. It was never a certain meet or a personal best. Rather, it’s the relationships I have made within the team as we rode long bus rides to meets around Ontario and Michigan. Whether it was throwing around weight as we trained; blasting music in the weight room; high-giving each other after a particularly grueling workout; or smiling through the pain of lactic acid and cramps.
I will always hold my teammates and coaches responsible for my own success in this sport. Without them, I would never have believed I could accomplish anything, and, in a sport as mentally challenging as track and field, that means I owe them everything.
Is there someone who inspires you to continue to pursue your sport at this high level (i.e., coach, professional athlete, family member, etc.) and what makes them an inspiration to you?
I would have to say I do what I do for my mom. From gymnastics to soccer, to badminton and swimming - all the sports I've had the privilege of experiencing growing up - she showed up to everything. She drove me to practices, meets, brought food for the team, encouraged and cried with me after a bad performance and celebrated just as hard as me during a good one. My mom has always made me feel strong, able and supported, even learning sports lingo and trying to understand pole vault rules so she could follow along.
For those who don’t know, pole vault competitions always take a minimum of 3 hours to fully complete for one group. My mom, she would always be there at the end when she could or text me or follow up with me on online whenever possible. I'm extremely lucky that she sacrificed so much for my sports. I believe my testament to her is to stay healthy, be a respectful competitor, and ultimately take away not just the results from my sports career but also a good character and encouragement fo those I compete against and coach.
What excites you most about continuing your athletic journey at the varsity level within the OUA?
I’m most excited about the routine of sports during university. Experiencing practices with a team that is as dedicated as you at specific times, meets every weekend during the season, and seeing the same faces you compete with is so exciting to me. It helps me mark my progress as well as that of my competitors. I’m so excited for us to continue pushing each other for a spot on the USports qualifying list. Last season was so competitive and I can’t wait to feel that hunger from everyone at this year's meets in Guelph, Western, York and Toronto. The collective success of my competitors pushes me to get to their level and try to surpass it.
What is/are some of the more unique aspect(s) of your sport that others may not know about?
Our competitions are typically around 3 hours long. S we really get to know our competitors. Pole vault is such a beautiful sport because we cheer each other on even as we compete against each other as well as feed off each other’s energy. We all have to be a little bit wild for choosing a sport where one grabs a stick and then go and stick it into a hole in the ground to jump up and go upside down meters into the air. But that’s what makes it so unpredictable and fun. And sometimes hard when you’re not having the best mental day.
If someone else was looking to start playing your sport, what one piece of advice would you give them to get them started?
I would say to get involved with full body workouts. This can include things such as cross-fit, gymnastics, dancing or rock climbing. Pole vault is much easier when someone has a good sense of body awareness and core strength. But,ultimately, it's dependent on confident and trust in one's own strength.
What is one critical thing that you do to try to continue to experience improvement within your sport (i.e., specific drill/exercise, training regimen, routine, etc.)?
It’s critical to have a smart training regimen and incorporating rest heavily. Of course we run, lift and have our technical days. But warming up fully and cooling down as well as having full rest days is critical too. This approach allows me to lessen the risk for injury and helps my strength and power grow instead of plateauing.
What would you say to your 10-year-old self about playing and staying in sport?
I would tell my younger self to never lose the drive to work for perfection but to allow yourself to rest and celebrate the daily achievements. Instead of focusing on championships and putting pressure to do well, focus on the way we build our body and mind every time we finish a workout, get a personal best, or get a great night of sleep. It is possible to balance everything in life but know that it’s okay when something goes wrong because we have a good foundation and appreciation for sports. Especially when we focus on staying healthy and pursuing more opportunities to learn more.
Is there one strategy that you find works well for you in creating a positive student/athlete balance in your life?
Every night before bed, I throw on some calming music and that usually means jazz. I also manually write out my plan for the next day using different colors and fonts - whatever is aesthetically pleasing to me. This helps me stay organized with what I have to do and it also allows me to see visually where in my day I can rest/do nothing. This strategy helps me to stay accountable when I don’t want to finish something.
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Blog by Caroline Wiley. Caroline bridged her 20+ years of professional experience in the sport and recreation industry together with her passions for photography and supporting women in sport to create SeeWhatSheCanDo. Her vision is to create a welcoming space where active women find a sense of belonging within their own local community, see themselves in authentic and awe-inspiring ways and find resources to help them be their best active selves.
Photos courtesy of Ontario University Athletics and SeeWhatSheCanDo unless otherwise indicated.
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