Start with the fact that Kylie Hutson, one of the best female pole vaulters in the world, is a Vigo County high school graduate, Terre Haute North to be specific.
Add a significant tradition in pole vaulting among Vigo County high school boys too, both recently — North graduate Connor Curley is one of the best collegiate vaulters in the country — and going back to Josh Dispennett clearing 16 feet while at West Vigo, with many others in between.
Then consider that Hutson’s best high school vault, 11-feet-9, has been threatened by several other local athletes since then — North’s Rachel Welker and Rachel Gutish and Terre Haute South’s Diana Price, to name three.
And now meet, in alphabetical order, Laura Grønbech and Sarah Padan of South and Josie Rakes of North — any or all of whom might have a better vault than 11-9 by the end of the season.
Padan’s personal best is just 10-3 so far, but she thrives in stiff competition — which obviously she’ll get in every meet the rest of her senior season. She got her 10-3 at the state finals her sophomore year, bettering her previous best by nine inches while tying for 19th place.
A year ago she may have figured that the Braves’ school record (10-6, by Price) was hers to get this year. But the record isn’t 10-6 anymore.
That’s because Grønbech, an exchange student from Denmark, went 11-0 in last week’s North-South meet to literally raise the bar. And Rakes, 10-6 at the North-South meet but 11-0 while placing 13th in the state last June, is hoping to break Hutson’s record before following in her footsteps to continue vaulting at Indiana State.
All three are hopeful of getting to the state finals this year. Their regional field is likely to include Madison’s Maddie Holland, who placed third in the state at 12-3 last year, and just three regional competitors advance automatically.
But all could go by bettering the state standard — 11-3 last year — and that’s not impossible for any of them.
Tom Simmons, who coaches South’s vaulters, would certainly love to see both of his charges at Bloomington.
“Sarah is the first four-year vaulter I’ve had … she’s small but powerful,” he said. “With Laura, I knew it would be a challenge to help her get higher [her personal best of 11-6 was achieved in Denmark], but she has a great runway and great form — she’s tall, strong and fast.
“Both of them are really hard workers,” he added, and both he and South head coach Ed Jarvis love how they support each other.
Rakes, says North vaulting coach Matt Presnell, is “physically and talent-wise, probably the best I’ve had [which includes Welker and Gutish but not Hutson]. She’s faster and more explosive down the runway, and she’s getting really close to the technique.”
“I love [Rakes’] attitude,” added North head coach Mike Dason. “She’s a hard worker. Even though she did another sport, the minute she was done with volleyball, she was at pole vault practice.”
Rakes starting vaulting as a freshman, and was able to bend the pole in her first practice, Presnell — whose wife Toni also works with the vaulters — said recently.
“Rachel Gutish is who I looked up to as a freshman and sophomore,” Rakes said, “and now she’s rooting me on from DePauw. I’ve been blessed to have very good coaches, who always have my best interests at heart.”