Carrie Jacka wants to fly where no Mead female pole vaulter has flown before.
She is well on her way. A State 4A champion last spring, she’s on the brink of breaking Mead’s school record, set in 2010 at 12 feet, 3 inches by the Panthers’ first state champ, Tasha Clark.
In her first meet this spring, Jacka cleared 11-10 and took three tries at 12-4. She had a good try on her first attempt, just brushing the bar.
The senior knows she’ll break the record soon. She also hopes that eclipsing the milestone will be well in her rearview mirror by season’s end. She wants to hit 13-0.
“I want to break out of the 12s,” said Jacka, whose personal best, 12-1, came at regionals last year.
Jacka attended a national pole vault summit this winter in Reno, Nevada. Her biggest takeaway?
“We got to listen to a bunch of professional vaulters,” she said. “They talked about how they don’t ever give up in workouts. Even if it’s hard, you need to focus on what’s important.”
That was never truer than at the state meet last spring.
Things were going swimmingly for Jacka until she reached 11-9. She missed her first two attempts, but after she switched poles she cleared it with ease.
Then riding that adrenaline, Jacka captured the state title by clearing 12-0 on her first try.
Jacka, who transferred to Mead from Deer Park after her sophomore year, matched her sister, Bailee, who claimed a state title at Deer Park her junior season.
Now the youngest Jacka wants to go out as a repeat champion. Bailee missed her senior year because of a stress fracture in a foot.
Like many female vaulters, Carrie Jacka has a gymnastics foundation. She started tumbling in the sport when she was 4.
“I really like gymnastics but I plateaued when I hit Level 7,” said Jacka, who participated in the sport her two years at Mead. “In seventh grade I decided to do other sports. I quit until I moved to Mead.”
She discovered the pole vault just before going into eighth grade when she tagged along with her sister to a summer event at Eastern Washington University. Carrie competed in a youth division at the event.
“I had never tried it but they started the bar at 4 feet,” Jacka said. “I was so convinced I could get over it because I had high jumped that height.”
Sure enough. She went 6-0.
Her freshman year at Deer Park she qualified for state, placing 10th. Her season best was 9-6.
She took sixth at the State 1A meet as a sophomore, hitting her season best, 11-0, at state.
So if the pattern holds, Jacka will eclipse 13-0 and some.
“I think she can go higher than 13,” Mead assistant coach and gymnastics coach Laurie Chadwick said. “She’s got it in her.”
Jacka’s biggest obstacle – as it is for most vaulters – isn’t physical but mental.
At about each 6-inch upgrade, vaulters usually transition to a new pole. So with each advancement comes times of starting over in a sense.
She overcame one mental hurdle last week when she finally got upside down on the pole instead of swinging sideways to get over the bar.
“I’d done it in practice but never in a meet,” Jacka said. “I didn’t quite understand how it works. Once I did it, it clicked. I never understood it at all last year. People would tell me but it’s something that has to happen for you.”
And the funny thing is that when Jacka did get upside down she hardly noticed.
“I think I closed my eyes,” she said.
Her next mental barrier, she said, is 13-0.
Chadwick is happy where Jacka is now.
“A year ago this time she was at 10-6,” Chadwick said. “She’s just really improving.”
Jacka’s strengths include her speed down the runway and her swing on the pole, Chadwick said.
“She’s always been good about attacking,” Chadwick said. “And she’s done a good job with her transitions from pole to pole. She has good core strength and she has spatial awareness – knowing where you are in space. That’s a benefit from gymnastics.”
Jacka is looking forward to the Pasco Invite, which is April 18.
“I’ve gotten (personal bests) there every year,” she said.
She was second a year ago. She wants to win this season.
Jacka plans to vault in college. She’s interested in Montana and North Dakota State. And it’s not just about vaulting.
“I like those schools because they have good football programs,” Jacka said.
She knows if she can reach 13-0, she’ll probably get more offers.
“She’s a very extremely determined person,” Chadwick said. “She really looks good for this time of the year. She hasn’t stalled out technically.”
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