Life…it’s a funny thing how it challenges you. Just when things are going great and you’re on cloud 9, you get thrown off your happy cloud by a thunderstorm rolling through. This was my nationals. I have had, no wait…I am HAVING (correction made by my amazing pole sponsor Steve Chappell) a great year as a vaulter. I have jumped over 4.50m (the World Championship B standard) 11 times, over 4.60m (15’1 & the World Champ A standard) 5 times, and finally hit a big milestone jumping a PR of 4.70m (15’5 & one of the top 10 jumps in the world this year) all this year! I feel more confident than ever and I feel both mentally & physically dialed in. Honestly with the year I’m having I was focused on the World Champs in Russia and placing well there. I wasn’t letting any negative thoughts cross my mind. Well…nationals came and nationals went and once again I found myself in the unfortunate 4th place…once again putting me as the alternate for team USA. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt great at nationals, dialed in. The competition started fine with me clearing 4.40m and 4.50m on first attempts. Bar went to 4.55m and my pole was too soft so I blew through and need to switch poles. I then passed to 4.60m because I then needed to clear that height to be top 3. Once again my pole was too soft, it mushed out on me and I had to switch poles again for my third attempt. I switched poles, told myself to just execute the way I’ve done all season and I would be fine. Well I took off a bit too close causing me to not quite get enough rotation into the pit and I ended up clipping the bar off on my way down. Landing on the mat at that moment hurt the worst it ever has. I was shocked. Felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe it. I peeled myself off the mat, put my pole away and knelt down to have time to myself. I was simply devastated. The thing is, it’s all about how you perform the day of nationals in the US. Doesn’t matter if you broke the world record two weeks before, doesn’t matter anything you have done previously, it’s all about that one day. For me, the cards didn’t fall how I wanted them. The 3 that made the team are fantastic vaulters who deserve to be there, so in my disappointment I don’t intend to take away anything from those 3 because they got the job done and they will represent our country amazing in Moscow!
After the meet my dear friend Vera came over and helped pick me up. She is truly an inspiration to me both on and off the vault runway. If you want an amazing outlook on life you MUST read her blog at verefly.com. Whether you’re a vaulter or not she has something amazing for everyone to take away. Basically she told me to trust that I am where I am supposed to be and that one moment, one performance, doesn’t define who I am as a vaulter or as a person. From Vera’s words I started thinking a lot. For me, pole vault on a daily basis is so much about what height you’ve jumped. But at the end of the day, pole vault is soooo much more than that. It is my passion. When it really comes down to it, I pole vault for ME, Mary Saxer. I pole vault because its fun and yea, maybe I happen to be decent at it too. Pole vault has given me things I never could have dreamed of…traveling the world on pennies, competing in sold out stadiums with people cheering my name, competing with Olympic & World medalists and actually being in the mix with them, fans of all ages wanting MY autograph, 1950 twitter followers following my journey, experiences & life lessons from the places I’ve been & the people I’ve met that I never would have imagined. Yes, my goal is to medal at the Olympic Games, but one thing I can say now is this journey is already a dream come true…this life of a vaulter. It sure isn’t easy, but I can tell you it sure as hell is worth it 🙂
I received an email last night from one of the vaulters at MIT where I train in Boston. This vaulter is an amazing person in all ways…kind, genuine and so hard working. She shared with me the impact I have had on both her and the other MIT vaulters this year…it took my breath away as I read it. All this year I had no idea the impact I was having on those athletes. I was too busy being amazed at how smart and hard working they all were that I didn’t think that maybe they were looking up to ME?? She said “Reminding myself of your faith, tenacity, and courage. Each time I get scared I think of your love and your passion. It helps me remember that as long as I love to vault, continuing to train will always be the right choice – If I love jumping, then I would only ever regret not continuing to do what I love. Thank you for being you”. This email touched me in a way I can’t explain, but what I CAN say is that it made me realize that maybe for me my pole vault career is more than just trying to jump high and be the best. Maybe it’s about knowing that I, Mary Saxer, made a difference. If I can inspire other vaulters to never give up, no matter how bumpy the road becomes, then that means the world to me. 6 years ago I was about to quit vaulting altogether. I was miserable, not having fun, not performing well. Well…it was anything but an easy road, but look where I am today 🙂 Life challenges us, and we often don’t know the reason at the time, but one day you will look back and know why…because every challenge makes you that much stronger. In the end, regardless of the ups and downs, I feel blessed that I can have no regrets because I truly chased a dreamed 🙂