ASR: What are you planning to do after you graduate?
KA: I have a farm that I am starting with my boyfriend, so that’s something completely off from all of my other interests. Then, I also want to get into coaching at here at the university, which would be my dream job. I also personal train, so I would probably continue to do that.
ASR: How did you get into pole vaulting?
KA: A cute boy. He was the cutest boy on the track team, and he was a few years older. He told me I should try out pole vaulting, and I was like, ‘I should definitely try out pole vaulting.’ I ended up catching on fast, and being really good at it. He since transferred and quit, but I stuck with it.
ASR: Was pole vaulting hard at first?
KA: It’s hard because it’s so awkward. Even just the way you hold the pole is awkward. I mean, your wrists are all caulked and in funny directions, so it’s really weird in the beginning, and you just take it in really slow steps. You learn how to hold the pole, then you learn how to drop the pole, and you learn how to lift it up so everything is broken down. So yes, it was challenging.
ASR: How difficult is the workout routine?
KA: [The workouts] are just very long. Usually we will do some kind of sprinting or plyometric of some sort. Then we will do a lot of technique. Pole vaulting is a huge technique sport—our practices can be three or more hours long.
ASR: Do you ever get bored doing pole vaulting?
KA: I wouldn’t say I get bored of it, but in college I started right after being injured, so it was frustrating. The only way for you to be satisfied is by [achieving] personal records. A lot of people struggle with being okay with a height that isn’t a personal record. Freshman year was really frustrating, but then I started [achieving] personal records and I realized why I was [pole vaulting].
ASR: You’ve previously injured yourself by tearing your ACL. How did that happen?
KA: Basically, there are a lot of different ways you can get injured doing pole vaulting. [Injuries can happen] if you’re pole vaulting on a pole that is too big for you, if you have a poor take off, and if you don’t have enough force to get you up and over, then you come back down on the track. That’s what happened with me. Coaches teach you how to roll out of falling, but I never learned how to do that. I landed flat-footed out of a fall and hyper-extended my leg. It wasn’t very painful, but it was terrifying. The second you take off, you know if you’re going to make it or not.
ASR: What is the healing process for a torn ACL like?
KA: The physical therapy was very painful. Basically, you have your surgery and you build up scar tissue from it, and you aren’t allowed to walk on it. You can only straighten and bend [your knee] to a certain point. At physical therapy you have to get passed that point, and you just tear scar tissue in your knee. So, there was a lot of pain. My physical therapist was like, ‘Do you know what PT stands for?’ and I was like, ‘Physical therapy?’ and he was like, ‘No, pain and torture.’
ASR: Do you have a memorable moment?
KA: When I hit 12 feet for the first time—it is a huge milestone for pole vault. That is what separates you from being a high school and college student. When I made that, it was so cool. It was at conference in Oregon, my sophomore year at Western. My whole team was there cheering me on to make that last attempt, and it was amazing. I also hit 12 feet 10 inches, which is my current personal record at nationals. It might have been my favorite moment of all time.
ASR: Do you hold any school records?
KA: It’s kind of confusing because the school counts indoor and outdoor as two separate seasons, and sometimes outdoor is the only real season. So, on the plaque it says my record is 12 feet 7 inches, but my actual personal record is 12 feet 10 inches. I also held the record at my high school at 10 feet, which was my personal record until I graduated. I also hold the GNAC record for both indoor and outdoor.
ASR: What else do you like to do in your free time?
KA: I like to rock climb and bike. I have chickens so they are fun to hang out with. [I like to] garden, [go on] Pinterest, just hang out in the sun.
ASR: Are you close with your other teammates?
KA: Yes. The pole vaulters are all really goofy. Like, you have to be a little crazy to pole vault, you know? There has to be a screw loose for you to think that it’s a good idea to pole vault. So, we crack each other up, and get along really well. We all have similar, quirky personalities. If you aren’t going to have fun and enjoy it, then you’re not going to do well.