Putting away the poles: Why I left the Big Red track and field team

By Laura Carr,

Sports Editor

I came to Denison for track and field. I had many different answers for whenever my peers at home in Los Angeles asked me why I chose to attend a small liberal arts school in Ohio that almost no one in my hometown had ever heard of, but that was what it almost always came down to. 

Around this time last spring, I was faced with the decision of where I should dedicate the next four years of my life. At the time, pole vaulting was my main focus, maybe more so than academics. 

One could even go as far as to say that pole vaulting was my life. I was also the executive sports editor on my school newspaper, but none of the schools that I had applied to for journalism had offered me any sizeable scholarships. 

So naturally, Denison seemed like the best bet. I could continue to pursue my passion for pole vaulting without the stress and time commitment that came along with Division I athletics. 

On my recruiting visit, I was told that the beauty of Division 3 sports was that I wouldn’t have to sacrifice my other interests for athletics. 

There would be an equal balance between track and field and journalism. 

However, once I had become a permanent fixture on The Denisonian staff, I found that that promise no longer applied. I had to choose between track and the newspaper. 

I ended up choosing the newspaper, but the reason I’m writing this article is to explain how I came to that decision. 

I had two main reasons: track practices interfered with mandatory weekly content meetings, and I also no longer loved track. 

I wouldn’t say that I grew out of track; it was more that pole vaulting and I had a disagreement somewhere along the way. 

I fell out of love with the event. The training that I was doing for the Big Red track and field team was a complete 180 from what I had been doing in high school. 

In high school, I trained with my club team and only attended school practices once a week in order to appease the coach. We didn’t have a pole vault pit at my high school and I did all of my approach and runway technique work with a personal trainer. In essence, I was a better member of the team by not being a member of the team. 

However, I had also become somewhat frustrated with my performances during the indoor season. 

My collegiate best was an entire two feet lower than my high school personal record, and no matter what I did, it just didn’t seem like I would improve much. 

The first month back from winter break was riddled with injuries and sickness. I was forced to miss several track meets, and of the three that I did compete at, the results were embarrassing. 

I had not mustered a season that terrible since my freshman year of high school. In fact, my freshman year had actually been better. It was as if four years of pole vaulting experience had disappeared, and I was once again a beginner. 

In my short time as a member of the track and field team, I was a regular in the training room, and my left ankle was injured so often that I was never able to get the work that I needed in order to succeed. 

A week before I left the team, I was told that the injury had gotten so bad that the only way to correct the situation for good would be to go into surgery. My time on the track team was defined by athletic tape, ice bags and altogether very poor performances. At one meet, I only succeeded in clearing the starting height from my freshman year of high school. 

After some confusion at a meet at Kenyon College, I made the difficult decision to leave the team. I consulted my club coach, parents and friends, and ultimately came to the conclusion that taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team would be a good idea. 

I want to pursue a career in journalism, and writing for The Denisonian is a step in the right direction. However, I refuse to give up pole vaulting. I want to fall back in love with the sport, so I plan on jumping over the summer in the hopes of surpassing my high school personal best, but for now I am a proud “NARP” (non-athletic regular person). 

Photo courtesy Laura Carr