Northfield senior-to-be Alexis Kiefer has fixated on the No. 13 for a long time.
The number means a lot to Kiefer. It symbolizes a goal that she’s had in her sights since at least this past spring and it’s one she finally attained.
Kiefer cleared 13 feet in the pole vault last weekend at the USA Track and Field Region 8 Junior Olympics meet in Omaha, Nebraska to win the event and secure a spot in the national meet.
“Last year I cleared 11-2 and that was a personal best,” Kiefer said. “So I’ve come a long way since then.”
Kiefer won the 17-18 girls and beat out section rival and future conference rival Rochester Century’s Andi Jacobs for the first time. Jacobs won the pole this spring and last season. Jacobs set a new all-time record two years ago at the state meet by clearing 13 feet. Jacobs placed second in Nebraska with a height of 12-1 1/2.
Kiefer’s jump of 13 feet would have put her second at last year’s national meet, but she knows there are some competitors who have exceeded 14 feet.
“I’m actually really excited for it because there’s going to be some really good girls out there,” Kiefer said. “I know there’s a girl over 14 feet that’s probably going to be there.”
The top five performers from each event qualified for the national meet, which will be held in the Houston suburb of Humble, Texas July 21-27.
It’s been a meteoric rise for Kiefer, who just started pole vaulting last season. Last year her personal best was 11-2 and Kiefer won the 15-16 age group last year at the regional meet by clearing 11-1 3/4. Kiefer advanced to the national meet and she finished 21st after she cleared 10 feet.
Kiefer trains with Fuzion Athletics and coach Jerry Larson, who previously served as an assistant coach with the Northfield High School track and field teams. Larson has seen Kiefer’s improvement since she took up the sport and described her consistent improvement as extraordinary.
“I gotta believe she has a really good chance to finish on the podium at nationals,” Larson said. “She’s more or less matched the girl that took second in her age group last year. I think she’s definitely competitive.”
Training with Fuzion and using different poles has helped Kiefer achieve new heights. Kiefer finished second at the Class 2A state meet in June with a height of 11-9. With the aid of ESSX poles, a manufacturer that utilizes carbon fiber technology to provide stronger, more responsive poles, and a simpler approach to vaulting, Kiefer has accelerated her progress.
“The biggest thing is actually really simple,” Kiefer said. “I’ve been telling myself to run faster and vault faster.”
Kiefer will compete in the Grand Haven Beach Vault in Grand Haven, Michigan this weekend and at the Milwaukee Vault Fest before heading to the national meet. She is also planning on competing at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis Aug. 30.
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