Former NBA center Manute Bol stood almost eight feet high.
Basketball rims are 10 feet high.
Some elephants grow to be about 11 feet tall.
Nicole Kelly can pole vault over all of that stuff.
A recently-graduated senior from Billerica Memorial High, Kelly leaves the Indians as the school’s best female vaulter in history. She’ll be a member of the Div. 1 program at the University of Connecticut this fall and continue a career that has certainly been memorable.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Kelly.
Kelly recently finished her track and field career with a third-place finish at the New England finals after clearing 11 feet, 3 inches. She was also second at the all-state meet and first at both the Div. 1 championships and the Merrimack Valley Conference meet.
At a late-season meet against Tewksbury, Kelly cleared 11-9, breaking her own school record.
Chances are, it might be a while before Kelly’s record falls.
“She loves the sport,” said Doug Lang, a pole vaulting coach from Westborough who works with Kelly in the offseason. “She has a positive attitude and does a lot of research online. She has basically become a fanatic.”
Kelly’s career as a pole vaulter didn’t start until she was a freshman at BMHS. Several years as a gymnast growing up likely made Kelly a little less afraid of flying through the air than most student-athletes her age.
“That’s a huge advantage,” said Lynch. “You have to de-train them from a few things, but [pole vault coaches] love gymnasts.”
“I was a gymnast for many years before high school, but I always knew I wanted to run track,” Kelly said. “My dad was a distance runner so he inspired me to join the sport.”
But Kelly was likely the first in her family to plant a pole in the ground and sail straight up in the air, upside down for a few seconds, before falling back down.
“As a gymnast, I had a lot of friends that were older than me and a couple of them decided to do the pole vault,” said Kelly, who stopped doing gymnastics after her freshman year at BMHS. “They encouraged me to try it and I’m really glad that I did.”
So are her coaches at Billerica High, who often happily took the five points that Kelly would earn just about every meet for finishing first in her event.
As a freshman, Kelly met with success right away.