Volunteer assistant coach Samantha Crook, who handles Brown and the rest of the pole vaulters for Penn track, holds the indoor and outdoor pole vault records that Brown is gunning for.
This past winter, Brown came within half an inch of Crook’s indoor record of 12 feet, 6 inches. With the indoor season over, Brown has turned her attention to Crook’s outdoor record of 13 feet, 1.5 inches.
“[Brown’s] jumped better during the indoor season, more consistently, than I did,” Crook said. “With her clearances at that [12 feet, 5.5 inches] mark, she definitely has the ability to get the record outdoors.”
It was Crook who really pushed Brown to believe that she could beat her records. Through high school, Brown had only jumped 11 feet, 6 inches, so during a freshman year goal-setting session, she tried to set a target of 12 feet. Crook responded quite plainly: “Well, you have to think beyond that.”
And it didn’t take long for Brown to do just that, as she reached 12 feet by spring of her freshman year. However, she tore her ACL during practice shortly thereafter.
“I had a huge comeback to do after that,” Brown said. “Since I tore that, I had a big life adjustment and just told myself ‘keep doing better’ every time I go back.”
Brown made a full recovery and now uses that injury as a motivation to push herself to new heights.
“When I got hurt, I didn’t know if I would be able to pole vault again,” she said. “I was able to, and from there it was every meet — do better, every time in practice — do better.”
With the injury behind her, Brown has made huge strides in her technique and strength.
“She made a lot of improvements to her swing this year,” Crook said. “In the past couple seasons I worked a lot with her on her run, which got her on to bigger poles … She made a lot of improvements [on her swing] which is why I think she’s got that extra lift.”
Luck just might play a part in Brown’s hunt for her coach’s record, though, because weather is crucial when it comes to pole vaulting.
“Most track runners will tell you that they love outdoor because it’s so much better than indoor, you don’t have to deal with the stuffiness,” Brown said. “I don’t know, it’s different for pole vaulters because weather is definitely a factor, but you also tell yourself to ignore it.”
Her coach agrees and hopes that the weather will cooperate during the second half of the outdoor season.
“I’m really happy March is over because we are going to need a little bit of warmer weather and some nice tailwinds, but she definitely has it in her,” Crook said.
With her coach’s full support and a successful indoor season, Brown is willing to give it her all to go get the school record.
“Now, as of this season, I only have one more season, so let’s just kill it and jump as high as possible,” Brown said. “I had a really good indoor season. Since then, I started realizing there actually is a possibility of me breaking the school record.”