Courtois’ talents start with pole vault

Jordan Courtois, the 18-year-old senior at Westgate High School from New Iberia, spent all of Friday hoping for 12.

Twelve feet, that is.

The pole vaulter, whose record to that point was 11 feet, 6 inches, hoped to make it at least 12 feet at her season-opener meet against the Lafayette High School track and field team that afternoon.

She ended up maintaining her record Friday, but, as her mother, Teresa, said, Courtois “picked up right where she left off.”

Courtois is six years into pole vaulting and trains at New Heights Gym, the gym that put her up to the sport in the first place. At the time, she was wrapping up her career in gymnastics. Her vaulting coach also coached pole vaulters.

“He wanted me to come try it out,” she said.

Courtois said the motions in gymnastics are similar enough in pole vaulting (hence the two being featured at the gym), so she took to it right away.

“It was something I was good at,” she said.

Good enough for the Westgate High track and field team to add pole vaulting to its roster and good enough for out-of-state colleges to take note. Courtois, whose goal by the end of her final prep season is 13 feet, said she recently visited Samford University in Alabama and its track and field team.

Though diminutive and, by her own description, lanky, Courtois said she keeps conditioned through a combination of weight-lifting and running because pole vaulting requires use of essentially every muscle group in the body. Mental focus is another key.

“It’s still scary,” she said on vaulting now compared to when she started. “You just kind of block it out while you’re doing it.”

Courtois’ academic performance and extracurricular involvement fall in line with her athletics, too. One of the Iberia Parish school system’s first French Immersion Program students, she spent two weeks last summer with her grandmother in Paris figuring out which dialects to use where.

For five years, Courtois has danced with Studio 84 and, whether intentional or not, made it a complement to her pole vaulting.

“I do the dancing to get rid of the frustration in pole vaulting and I do pole vaulting to get rid of the frustration in dancing,” she said, laughing at herself.

Last year, Courtois said she ventured into high school acting and will be featured in the senior play this year. She said she liked it so much, she wants to major in theater wherever she goes to college (with a minor in film production).

“In dancing, you have to portray things on stage, so I think that fell into acting naturally,” she said.

Courtois admitted her schedule doesn’t leave a whole lot of downtime, but she preferred it that way. She said her parents and siblings lead similarly busy lives and she looks at it as teaching discipline. One day, she said, she’ll (happily) have to repay her parents for the investment they’ve made in her extracurriculars.

“I kind of rest a little bit in between everything,” she said. “I like it hectic. It keeps me out of trouble and I’m never bored.”

One way to balance everything, Courtois said, is to focus on each activity’s purpose to her.

“This sport’s going to get me into college,” she said. “Dancing’s going to give me some fun times.”

Margaret Dronet, head coach of the Westgate High girls track and field team, praised Courtois’ ability to balance all of the activities in her and do well at each of them.

“She’s just an all-around really super cool kid,” Dronet said. “It’s really fun when you get a kid who’s got really strong academics and who’s a really good athlete to boot.”



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