Jumping to new heights: Carolyn Bakx


Hannah Johnson, Staff Member

Running down the narrow track as fast as she can while being fully focused to spot the pad perfectly during every competition. Hearing the crowd cheer as she accomplished what she had set out to do for that day. That’s how it is for senior pole vaulter, Carolyn Bakx. Before Bakx knew she wanted to pole vault, she tried her hand at soccer.

“I came home every day after soccer season for a month and was like; ‘Wow, this is boring, so I’m going to do another sport.’ I could try track, but I’m not very fast. So I was like; “Oh I’ll try pole vaulting’,” Bakx said.

At first Bakx thought she would only pole vault for amusement but going through the season, she concluded that pole vaulting was something she really wanted to do.

“I started doing it just for fun but then realized that I wasn’t terrible at it,” Bakx said.

  Pole vaulting coach Andrew Unland has a strong passion for the sport. He helps Bakx achieve the goals that she sets for each competition.

“This is the fifth season I’ve been coaching. I fell in love with vaulting and I was given the opportunity to do it,” Unland said.

In addition to pole vaulting, Bakx plays varsity soccer. She admits that she loves the challenge and thrill she gets from playing both sports.

“I’ve always been a thrill seeker. I like roller coasters and adrenaline stuff, so I thought it made sense,” Bakx said.

Starting out as a freshman pole vaulter, Bakx didn’t know much about the sport. Her coach showed her the basics at her first practice and it lead on from there.

“My coach just put the pole in my hand and showed me where to hold and was like ‘let’s see what you got.’ So it’s more of a figure it out as you go along and of course you tweak things,” Bakx said.

Every season that comes around, Bakx has always gotten injured weeks right before a meet. Even though this happens, Unland says that she always finds a way to come out on top.

“Her work ethic, it’s really good. Last year right before indoor state she sprained her ankle and within a few weeks she was all the way back. She did all of the small stuff she had to to completely nurse it back to full health and she was able to compete. Just four days before sectionals, she came back down on the runway and sprained her wrist. She still won sectionals and went to state. A few weeks ago she dropped a 35 pound weight on her toe and broke it. Then, without any practice she was still able to qualify for nationals,” Unland said.

This year Bakx placed 22nd in the nation with a vault of 3.42m or 11’2.5. She then broke her previous school record and set a new vault record of 11’7.

“Nationals was definitely a great experience. The atmosphere was awesome, the track’s fast, the crowd was loud and the competition was really socially fun.

Teammate Charles Yott says Bakx has improved her vaulting just from witnessing her compete at nationals.

“I definitely think she has improved. She did just set a new school record and she broke her old record doing so,” Yott said.

During this year at Nationals Bakx had a broken toe, yet she still competed. Almost every season, Bakx has been injured in someway and can say she’s had a learning experience from it.

“It definitely showed me to persevere actually. I had a broken toe at the time and I had broken my toe two weeks before so I actually hadn’t qualified yet. So I qualified on my broken toe and competed on my broken toe at nationals which kind of showed me you can really do anything if you set your mind to it,” Bakx said.

There are four pole vaulters in total at LN. Bakx is the only girl. Yott is on his first season as a pole vaulter, as Bakx was two years ago.

“Nathan and I have always pushed each other. We’re always competing with each other and I think that because I’ve always competed with guys it’s made me better,” Bakx said

Pole vaulters have many ways to get ready before a meet. Even though pole vaulters have their own ways of getting prepared, Bakx has come up with her own way of making sure she is ready for each meet.

“I prepare myself by eating well and sleeping. I work out a lot and lift weights. I just take care of my body,” Bakx said.

Having a teammate that encourages everyone to do their best can be very beneficial. Bakx makes sure to encourage her teammates to produce the best possible outcome.

“She is a really good teammate. She kind of forces people to get into the overall team mindset and to pretty much not wuss out or anything like that. She holds everyone accountable,” Unland said.

Being one of the new pole vaulters this season, Yott didn’t know anything about the challenging sport beforehand. He admits that he has learned almost everything he can from Bakx.

“I have definitely learned things from her, everything from pole vaulting tricks, to how to manage time, and how to be a better athlete,” Yott said.

Over the years, Bakx has gained more confidence within herself and her performance as a pole vaulter.

“Mainly just overall with confidence, just the sheer amount of force and power that she can put into the pole. Stability is a lot better. Now we’ve just started working on cleaning things up and overall as an athlete she’s just matured a lot,” Unland said.

After pole vaulting for four years, Bakx hopes to continue the sport throughout her time in college. She hopes that her years of pole vaulting pay off this year as she works towards college recruitment. Bakx says she doesn’t really know where she wants to go but she definitely wants to continue the sport playing somewhere D1.

“I am working now on getting recruited, but I am definitely interested in vaulting in college. I have offers from smaller schools, but I am trying to go to D1 so it’s still in the works,” Bakx said.

When vaulting into the air, the feeling a vaulter gets can be different every time. For Bakx, her feeling was like an adrenaline rush.

“It’s a pretty exhilarating feeling. It’s like a backflip but longer. It’s fun but very fast, and I love it,” Bakx said.