Featured student author: Jordan Banker


Kat Sarafianos

[dropcap]I [/dropcap]was trembling, only my metal spikes anchoring me down by digging into the rubbery track. I was competing for the Missouri state pole vault title, and I already botched my first two attempts at a height that should’ve been easy for me to clear. I watched two volunteers shakily raise a crossbar onto two small rods. My heart raced. I was down to my final attempt, but I could make this jump. As the volunteers made the final adjustments, I positioned my hands on my pole, slowly lifting it into the air. I corrected my posture, one hand at my hip, the other over my chest. Finally, I sprinted towards the bar. I jumped off the ground and the pole bent. I paused for a moment before pulling my feet to my hands, then extending my body into a perfect handstand in midair. I knew it was my best jump of the day. On the way up, I didn’t even brush the crossbar. As I peaked, I bent my body around the bar. I fell to the mat, ready to celebrate–only to feel the crossbar land squarely on my chest. That thin rod knocked all the air out of me. I failed my third attempt–I was devastated. I packed up my poles, done for the day, and got off the track to speak to my coaches.
My coach was disappointed. He wasn’t disappointed in me, but rather for me.
[quote]Sometimes,” he offered, “you get worse before you get better.[/quote] As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, this was not advice I wanted. I wanted to get better without getting worse first. Just hearing the advice made my skin crawl–was I supposed to merely wait until I improved? I allowed myself to be upset for that day, but then I had to devise a plan.
Two weeks later, I pulled onto a gravel road in Excelsior Springs, near Kansas City, where an unassuming building stood. It looked like a pipe cut in half, and I was surprised that nationally ranked high school vaulters trained there. Observing this new facility, I decided that summer was my chance at redemption. I travelled to Kansas City twice a week, and lifted and ran all summer. Some days, I wanted to quit, but no matter how exhausted I was, I had to achieve my goals.
Finally, an opportunity arose–a competition near the facility.  I arrived to find just a mat and runway on the blacktop of a church parking lot. Even early in the morning, heat radiated off the dark ground. I spent most of the day melting in the heat, ignoring thoughts of the failed state meet. The simple setup of this competition was a comfort to me–it was the definition of a no-stress meet.
After baking on the blacktop, it was time for my group to compete. Warm ups flew by as did the first few heights; the beginning of my competition went without a hitch.
Quickly, the bar went to 11’–a height I didn’t clear at the state meet. I was shaken by the thought of failing again. When it was my attempt, I hastened my pre-jump routine, trying to keep doubting thoughts at bay. With just a glance at the crossbar, I took off down the runway, soared over the bar, and landed on the mat.
This time, the bar didn’t chase me down. I was ecstatic! The next height was 11’6”, and I cleared that on my first try, too. My confidence was back, just in time for the daunting height of 12’. I quickly accumulated two misses. But on my third attempt, as the crowd cheered, I knew this was the jump. As I flew over the bar, the crowd erupted. I cleared 12’, a height I hadn’t achieved all season. I left the meet that day confident in my vaulting again and overjoyed that I finally set the bar higher.