Catie Kelly is state champion in pole vault
Catie Kelly was flying high at the Rhode Island state track championships on Saturday. The Jamestown resident and North Kingstown High School junior pole-vaulted to a state championship with a vault of 9-feet.
"It feels great to do it, especially as a junior," Kelly said. "The day started out a little rough for me, so I was pretty amazed that I won."
She missed her first try at the 7-feet height and her first two attempts at the 7-feet, 6-inch height.
"I get nervous when I have to compete in front of a lot of people," she said. "I forgot to change the standards on the bar after the person in front of me went, so I kept hitting the bar on the way down."
Thanks to some helpful hand motions from her dad, John, Kelly caught the mistake before her third attempt and was able to move on in the competition.
She celebrated her win, not by indulging herself, but by attending the girls' lacrosse state championship game and showing her support.
John Kelly, a pole-vaulter himself in college, was the one who introduced her to the sport before her freshman year in high school.
"The bird bath in the front yard was the first thing she jumped over," her dad said. "She used a piece of PVC pipe for the pole and my foot was the box. After she cleared it, I said I think you might have some talent at this."
Kelly has been an athlete since she started dribbling her older brother's soccer ball around the house when she was three.
"I remember the first time she dropped a ball and was amazed that balls actually bounced," her mom, Mona, said. "In our house everyone kicked the ball, so she had no idea that it did anything else."
She played recreation league soccer, on the Lawn school team and now is the captain of the North Kingstown High School soccer team.
Snowboarding is her winter sport of choice, and she likes it so much that she is partly basing her college choice on its proximity to a ski slope.
This is not to suggest that Kelly is not a serious student. She is on the honor roll and feels that sports have helped her to have the extra concentration she needs to succeed in school.
Her snowboarding hobby will have to take a backseat if she realizes her goal of pole-vaulting in college.
"I have been working with a trainer every week to work on my upper body strength and go to a camp to help me work on my vaulting," she said. "My goal when I go to New Englands next week is at least 10 feet. That is what colleges are looking for."
Kelly credits fellow North Kingstown pole-vaulter, Teddy Coppa with helping her grow in the sport since her freshman year.
"Teddy took me around and introduced me to the team and really taught me a lot when I was a freshman. He also invited me to my first vaulting camp, and I have really gained from the camps," she said. "They split us into levels at the camps, so we are really working on what we need to work on and they give us all the help we need."
She has also gained a lot of insight from Cranston West coach, Mark Strawderman, a three-time All-American in the pole vault.
"He was beside the runway the whole day at the state meet giving girls, no matter what team they were on, tips. He is a really great guy and he just wants to see the sport of pole vaulting advance," Kelly said.
Kelly will be back next year to defend her title, but for now she is going to concentrate on setting her personal best record on Saturday.
"Sports really are a big part of my life, but I do it for fun. I am just lucky that I found something that I am good at," she said.