Since nearly making the London Olympics this year, Kat Majester has been far from staying home on the couch. She has been up to quite a bit in recent months. “Since the Olympic Trials my life has gotten extremely busy,” says Majester. “I moved to a new apartment in Atlanta, got a ‘big kid’ job as a business analyst for a healthcare system in Atlanta, have been cheering on the currently undefeated Atlanta Falcons [cheer squad] from the sidelines, training between [being at] work and cheer practice and going back to Athens for vaulting on the weekends. It has been an absolute whirlwind.” We also heard from Majester that, in between everything else, she also finished her master’s degree, at the University of Georgia, in December. This is one motivated woman, and her motivation and confidence are not lacking when it comes to the vault.
She says it best herself: “I don’t have to actively do anything to motivate or ‘gear myself up’ for
vault. I’m just obsessed with it and get really excited whenever I get the opportunity to go out to the track.”
“I honestly don’t have any special or unique tricks to increase my confidence as a vaulter. I gain confidence through preparation. The more times I do it right in practice, the more confident I am that I can replicate it when it counts; plain and simple,” Majester says of how she gains enough confidence with pole vault.
It’s hard to believe, with the success she has had, that Majester is fairly new to pole vaulting, but it hasn’t been that long since she got her start. “I got my start pole vaulting almost four years ago at Clemson University,” she says. “Josh Langley, the vault coach there at the time, got me into it and enabled me to qualify for NCAA Regionals only a few months after taking up the event. My background in gymnastics is what allowed me to progress as quickly as I did. I was a level 10 gymnast by the age of 10 or 11. Bars was my favorite event, so the top end of the vault comes really naturally to me when I happen to take off correctly.”
There have been difficulties for Majester since picking up a pole, but they have been nothing she hasn’t been able to handle. “The difficulties I have had to overcome as a vaulter are the injuries. I didn’t vault when I was younger, but I did gymnastics and I was a walking disaster. I’ve broken more bones over the years than I can count, but that’s just part of sports. You learn how to suck it up.”
Learning how to ‘suck it up’ has no doubt helped Majester in her new NFL cheerleading career as well. Amazingly she has found time to fit all this in. “My NFL cheerleading career began at the Atlanta Falcons cheerleading tryouts in April,” says Majester. “I cheered in high school and in college, so I had always secretly dreamt of one day becoming a professional cheerleader for my home team. This past spring was the first time it was realistic for me to tryout, so I knew I had to give it a shot. The actual tryout process was really intense and lasted an entire week. I honestly think that cheerleading and pole vault helped each other. Track had me in great shape to go into tryouts feeling confident about my appearance and also gave me the ability to make it through the boot camp/workout portion of the tryout without a problem. When I made the cheerleading squad, it gave me an extra boost of confidence going into Trials. More importantly, it gave me a whole new support system who I knew were rooting for me. Gotta love my Falcons Family!”
We know that 2012 has been exciting and busy for this gymnast turned vaulter, but it hasn’t been all easy to get through for her. “This past year in pole vaulting was filled with ups and downs for me,” Majester says. “Pre-season training last fall was looking great, but early in January I pinched a nerve in my back and was set back quite a bit. I was going to a lot of smaller meets locally, and on my own, which was really hard. I just wasn’t able to put together the kinds of jumps in a meet that I knew I was capable of and it was extremely frustrating. Since I’m still relatively new to the event, I’m still not very good at making adjustments on my own and that only added to my list of issues. Things finally started coming together late in the spring, and I think the one thing that had the biggest impact was the fact that I had nothing to lose and no one had any expectations of me. I was out there to have fun and do well for myself, my coach and all the teammates that have helped me along the way.”
The coach that Majester works with now is Petros Kyprianou, the multis and jumps coach at the
University of Georgia. “I train at the University of Georgia and the facilities are absolutely gorgeous,” she says. “We don’t have an indoor track, but we’re able to set up a runway indoors when we need to.” While she doesn’t attend any pole vault clubs or camps, Majester says she learns a lot from her teammates. “My biggest influences in pole vault are my teammates. They are the people that I learn from and look up to for vault technique on a day-to-day basis,” she says.
Majester is also fortunate enough to have a terrific family behind her. “My family is a fantastic support system,” she tells us. “My dad, mom and two brothers all came out to Oregon to watch me at Trials. I even shared a hotel suite with my brothers while I was out there, which was a lot of fun. My parents have been coming to all of the gymnastics meets, cheer competitions and football games since I was 4 years old. There is no way I would have gotten where I am today without their help. I owe them big time.”
Her gymnastics background may have helped her succeed in vaulting faster, but how does Majester manage to work up to longer and stiffer poles? Here’s what she tells us: “For me, getting on bigger poles hasn’t been about strength or speed; it’s been mostly about timing and technique. The hardest thing for me to learn, and what I still haven’t gotten down completely, is cutting my last step for an active take off with my hands all the way up. My biggest issue is leaning back and reaching my last step at the take off, especially if I’m tired. Then my hands are late and I practically punch myself in the forehead with my bottom arm. No amount of strength or speed in the world can make up for that.”
Of course we must leave you with some sound words of advice from such a motivated athlete. To vaulters just starting out, Majester says, “The biggest advice I have to give is: don’t give up. You can
do anything you put your mind to if you work hard enough. Never let anyone tell you, ‘you aren’t good enough’. Take the negative as constructive criticism, and prove them wrong.”
By: Michelle Walthall – Vaulter Magazine LLC.