A year ago, Kristen Hixson was recovering from a stunning disappointment.
After capping her stellar Grand Valley State career with a national championship, Hixson has set the bar — and her dreams — even higher.
The GVSU graduate will compete at this week’s U.S. Track & Field Championships in Sacramento in the pole vault.
“I feel great physically and mentally,” Hixson said. “Practice has been going really well, making little adjustments to my vault technique. There are little details that we haven’t really focused on in the past. Hopefully, they will let me reach some higher goals.”
A few months ago, Hixson wasn’t even sure there were going to be any higher goals, but her NCAA Division II national championship came with a DII record 4.5 meters.
That stunningly has the small-school athlete seeded fourth in the nation heading into this weekend’s meet.
“When I go home, people repeat that stat that I am fourth,” she said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
But is has got Hixson thinking.
If she is ranked that high nationally, in two years when the Olympic trials take place, would she have a shot at the top three and a spot in Rio de Janeiro?
“I have definitely thought about it,” she said. “Maybe it is more realistic now thinking about it. I am not saying it is impossible. I definitely believe in my capabilities.”
Why shouldn’t she?
The numbers don’t lie. Hixson is the fourth-best pole vaulter in the nation heading into this meet, where the first — Jenn Suhr — is the reigning Olympic gold medalist.
Hixson is closing in on that level, and is just getting better.
It is a tough line to cross for recent college graduates, whether or not to continue aiming for a dream.
Her stunning performance at the NCAA meet made the decision easier for Hixson.
“When I started college, I had completely different goals. At the beginning, I wanted to PR and be national champion. As the years went by and I accomplished those goals, I started to reach a little higher,” she said.
Now, reaching a little higher is closing in on reaching to the highest.
“If I commit to this the next couple of years, (the Olympic team) will be on my goal sheet,” she said. “I am going to keep going for sure, at least toward the 2016 Olympic trials. Hopefully it will become more attainable. Over the next two years, it will become clearer.”
What Hixson has made perfectly clear is dreams don’t care where you are from or how you get there.
Hixson is from the small — and I mean small — town of Remus outside Mount Pleasant.
While most elite athletes attend big, Division I colleges, Hixson wanted to aim for a national championship as a pole vaulter and a team title.
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