Emily Grove is a rather amiable individual. She is also a national champion and an All-American in the pole vault.
Grove, a 2011 graduate of Pontiac Township High School, is also competing on the world stage next week. She will be with the United States contingent to the IAAF Junior World Championships at Barcelona, Spain. The meet begins July 10 and will end July 15. Grove left today.
Grove will represent the U.S. in the pole vault, where she is ranked third in the world. “I’m happy to be going,” she said earlier this week.
“I would like to medal. I’m ranked third and they only medal three, so that would be nice,” Grove added. “I just hope to jump a decent bar and have fun.”
Grove has been jumping with the USATF (USA Track and Field) team since high school. She earned a spot on the national junior team after winning the USA Junior Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Ind., in June. She cleared 13 feet, 11 inches.
The winning mark is not her best. Grove cleared 14-2 this year on her way to earning first-team All-American status at the NCAA Division I national meet last month. She placed seventh overall.
The journey has been quite a success for the young lady who has been pole vaulting for six years, and only been really serious about it for the last three.
Grove first took an interest in pole-vaulting almost as a lark in eighth grade. It came about because two girls — Grove and Molly Gill — were not interested in the day’s practice activity.
“We were like, ‘We don’t want to run today so let’s just go try pole vault,’” Grove said of that day in 2007. “And then I jumped a little bit in eighth grade and freshman year I didn’t jump too much.
“Then sophomore year, (coach) Cory (Christenson) helped me start get going and getting into pole vaulting. My junior and senior years it picked up heavily,” she added.
“Things started clicking my sophomore year,” Grove said. “It was really still just for fun and I thought, ‘Wow, this is kind of cool. And I placed fourth at state.’”
That was 2009. In 2010 and 2011, Grove won state championships after going 12-6 both years. These are still listed as state finals records in Class 2A.
It was her junior year that Grove really showed improvement by frequently establishing new personal-best marks.
“I started getting serious about it when coaches started calling me,” Grove said. “I thought, well, maybe I could go to school for this.”
Grove cleared 13-5 during her senior year. It stands as a school record and may be a state record.
Coaching has been a big key in Grove’s success, and she is fully aware and appreciative of what Christenson, Mike Lucas and Derek Miles have done for her.
“Cory and Coach Lucas did well to get me to where I needed to be,” Grove said. “Derek is laying out all the information he can and I’m just trying to soak it up.”
Christenson is the pole-vaulting coach at PTHS and Lucas is the head coach. Miles is an assistant at the University of South Dakota and an Olympian. He will be in London for the 2012 Games, which will be his third Olympics.
After high school, Grove’s stop was South Dakota to be a part of a program that is on the rise. Besides Grove, the Coyotes had another All-American pole-vaulter in Bethany Buell, who placed third at nationals.
Buell was 15th at the Olympic Trials. Grove competed but missed the opening height.
“It was a learning experience, for sure,” Grove said of competing at the NCAA national finals meet. She added that she had a goal of being top eight at nationals — she placed seventh to be All-American.
“It was pretty intense, everyone was neck-and-neck,” Grove said of the national meet. “There were eight girls at 13-11, which is unusual to me. Usually by 13 feet, they’re all out.
“Nationals is where we wanted to peak at,” she added. “The Olympic Trials was really just for fun and to just get a taste of what the Trials are like. It was more of a learning experience than anything.”
Grove’s latest meet was an event in St. Louis this past Wednesday. Grove said she was using the meet mainly as a jump session. She also said Miles has had her work on speed.
“I’m happy with what I’ve done but I have a lot of work to do,” Grove said.
The World Championships will be the first time she has been out of the country, Grove said. The meet will be at the Olympic Stadium and the team will be wearing hand-me-downs — old Olympic uniforms.
Grove won’t be alone in Barcelona, either. She said aunts Nancy Paschal and Sarah Walters are also making the trip.
By Erich Murphy