Jamie Davis knew from a young age she wanted to fly. When her legs couldn’t take her high enough, she found a pole that could.
It’s a pole she’s been leaning much of her life on ever since.
Davis, a 33-year-old now living in Boulder, will compete in Colorado Springs’ Rocky Mountain State Games on July 27. Her participation in the Games — a multi-sport jamboree featuring every sport from table tennis to taekwondo — will be part of what Davis calls her “re-introduction year” to the sport she can’t shake.
Originally from Sioux Falls, S.D., Davis was introduced to pole vaulting as soon as she entered her freshman year at the University of South Dakota.
“As a freshman there I walked onto the track team and wanted to do high jump and some sprints. But I wasn’t quite fast enough to be on a relay team, or just to do the 100-meter dash or anything,” Davis said. “My high jump wasn’t great either. They (said), ‘You can try walking on, but you’re not really that great of an athlete.’ ”
Her own legs had failed her. For an event she had been relatively good at — reaching 5 feet, 5 inches at her tiny Sioux Falls high school — she no longer made the cut.
Failure, as it so often is, was a blessing for Davis. With no other options left, she raised the bar.
“High jump was like the highest thing I could do … But then I got to college, and I was like, ‘What?’ This is awhole new level of flying, because you get to take a pole, run down the runway and fly over a bar and fly a lot higher,” Davis said. “I just became really addicted really fast to the feeling of flying.”
Davis was a newcomer to the world of pole vaulting. But after training with head coach and three-time Olympian pole vaulter Derek Miles, Davis left college a Division II All-American, four-time participant in D-II nationals, and four-time academic All-American. In 2003 indoor D-II nationals, she cleared a bar at 12 feet to tie for first place nationally with five other women.
That after starting her career at 19.
After college, she moved to Jonesboro, Ark., to train at what she refers to as the “pole vault mecca” of Bell Athletics. Coached by Earl Bell, the pole vault world record holder for part of 1976 and 1984 Olympic Bronze medal winner, Davis recorded some of her highest vaults while working with some of the nation’s premier vaulters.
However, personal circumstances she describes as “out of (her) control” then led her away from her sport. For the next eight years, she left her pole vaulting career in the rearview mirror.
The time off proved unbelievably productive for Davis. She earned her masters degree in fine arts at Colorado State University. She completed 15 — yes, 15 — triathlons and somewhere between 25 and 40 cycling races. She moved back to South Dakota and worked on graphic design. She became an office coordinator at Broomfield’s ClickBank online retail center. She is now planning her wedding.
And now, with a clearer mind and a fresh perspective, Davis is back on the runway revamping her 12-step long approach.
“It’s busy (now), but all of (my activities) put together, it’s like they really feed the pole vaulting,” she said. “I feel like that’s one thing that’s really making a difference right now in not getting bummed out if I have a bad practice. I have all these other things going on in my life.”
Two of her loves in particular now feed her like nothing else — painting and pole vaulting. Why? Because these are the only two areas of her life where she feels constantly “in the zone.”
“It’s this place where you lose track of all time,” she said. “It doesn’t feel rushed or pressed. Those are some of the times where I’ve had the very best meets of my life, or created the best paintings.”
And her athletic odyssey during the eight-year hiatus gave her clarity.
“Even through doing triathlons and cycling, I don’t think I’ve ever loved something as much as I love pole vaulting . . . Now that I’m able to come back to it, it’s something that I’m realizing even more about just really getting lost in that,” she said.
Now, Davis trains at Boulder’s Above the Bar track club as she prepares to participate in the Rocky Mountain State Games. Her speed and strength may not be what they used to be, and she’s smoothing out some tough technique adjustments.
She hopes her hard work will help her fly high once more.
“Now I feel like I’m kind of evening (my adjustments) out a little bit,” she said. “Actually, if everything comes together, it could be a great meet for me.”