Elizabeth Quick was in the middle of the best meet of her college career. The junior had already cleared 14-1 ¼ in the pole vault – a personal best by more than six inches – at the Husky Classic.
She had the opportunity to PR for the second time in the meet. Her teammate, Kristina Owsinski, the reigning Pac-12 champion, was on the runway. Quick was next.
Then, just as Owsinski was started to run, the senior suffered an injury.
“I was behind her, just waiting to go,” Quick said. “She took her first step. I heard a noise. She kind of just stumbled and went down.”
At that moment, Quick forgot about her next attempt. She went to tend to her teammate.
“I went to focus on her,” she said.
After Owsinski was helped off the track, the meet continued.
“We should probably stay warm,” senior Diamara Planell Cruz told her teammate.
Quick was worried about Owsinski, but tried to regroup. Quick had to find a way to refocus if she was going to do something she had never done before.
“I just tried to control my emotions and focus on the bar,” she said. “I gave it everything I’ve got.”
On her second attempt, she cleared 14-3 ¼. It was her second PR of the day, a mark that should earn the standout her first trip to the NCAA indoor championships next month in Birmingham, Ala.
“It was crazy, because I wasn’t expecting to make it,” said Quick, who will compete in the MPSF Championships at Dempsey Indoor this weekend. “That was super exciting, but it was a bunch of mixed emotions, because your friend is injured and you just hit another PR. I wasn’t sure how to feel.”
That meet provided a breakthrough moment years in the making, a journey that started when Quick was born a triplet.
“It was fun,” said Quick, when asked about growing up with her siblings, Mark and Madeline. “I always had a friend to play with. It was really cool. We all shared the same friends, shared pretty much everything, so it’s kind of nice going to college and being on your own a little bit.
Growing up a child with two siblings so seemingly similar, Quick wanted to find something that made her unique. She tried a variety of sports, including gymnastics, which helped develop the strength that now helps her in the pole vault.
As far as track and field, she competed in the high jump in middle school. When she reached high school, a coach asked about her background in gymnastics. He then had her try the pole vault.
She described her initial foray into the event as “decent.” But that was only the beginning.
Throughout her first two years at Washington, Quick worked and waited for a breakthrough. It helped to have talented teammates like Owsinski and Planell Cruz.
“They have two different vaults, so if I’m working on my tuck, then I ask Kristina, ‘How do I do this?’ If it’s my plant, I ask Diamara, ‘How do I work on tall arms?’” Quick said. “Everyone has a different view on the vault, so it’s really nice to be able to talk and bounce around ideas of how to perfect your vault.
“You want to emulate them and do what they do. It’s nice to have someone who is jumping higher than you, because you’re always chasing after what they have.”
When Quick started to train for the indoor season, she focused on her technique.
“We changed my run a lot and then this year we’ve solidified that should work,” she said. “I’ve focused on making that consistent and then having a really good plant.”
She worked to improve the first half of the vault before, “really letting everything else happen.”
As her technique improved, her confidence grew.
“She’s been knocking on the door for a couple of years now, one bar away from being a kid who goes to nationals,” assistant coach Pat Licari said. “She’s pretty persistent. She hung in there and stuck with it. You could see good things were coming.”
Now that she knows she can “jump the bars,” she believes more PRs are on the horizon.
“It’s a great feeling to finally prove I can compete against the top people in the country and show I’m capable of jumping high,” she said. “I also like to show I can compete under insane pressure and not let anything distract you.”
She was able to push past the pressure in her last meet. Now she will try and do it again this weekend.
“I really want to focus on being consistent and focus on jumping 14-1, 14-3 this weekend,” she said. “Then I want to just shoot for higher bars, trying to hit 14-5 and qualify for trials. I’m trying to take it one step at a time and not get too far ahead of myself, but 14-5 is a good goal now.”
At the start of the year, Licari and Quick set a goal to hit 14-7 during the outdoor season. She is close to reaching that mark, but she is trying to keep everything in perspective.
For Quick, the goal is simple: “Hit the next bar and see what happens.”