Athletic records are set by high caliber athletes and then proudly displayed in trophy cases or plaques posted on school walls for all to see. And then they wait to be broken. Most athletes who set records anticipate that some day their record will be broken, but not many anticipate that it will be a younger sister who comes along and breaks it.
Ann Polcari, Ridgewood High School Class of 2008, set a 11’9″ pole vault record that stood for three years until her little sister Kayla, RHS Class of 2011, broke it her senior year at the prestigious Penn Relays, in 12’5.5.” “I told her that records were meant to be broken and I was so happy it was her,” recalls Ann.
In February, both sisters, who attend Notre Dame, helped their women’s team win the Big East Indoor Championship for the first time since 2006. Kayla’s best vault is her 12’5.5″ set at the Penn Relays and Ann’s is 13’2″. They recently finished 1st and 2nd (Ann 1st and Kayla 2nd) at the Invitational Indiana Relays. They love competing together. “We are very supportive of each other,” says Ann.
As important as their athletic achievements are, the sisters are both involved in “Timmy Global Health of Notre Dame,” which is an organization that provides medical services to underserved areas around the world. Ann is the president of the Notre Dame chapter of this national organization and Kayla is very actively involved. They spent their last fall break in Quito, Ecuador with a medical brigade of doctors, nurses, and students from Notre Dame.
It was Ann’s third medical brigade to Ecuador and Kayla’s first. They are both hoping to attend medical school and continue supporting this organization as medical professionals. Ann will graduate this July. Kayla, a sophomore, has a double major of pre-med and psychology. The family has strong ties to Notre Dame. Their father, Peter Polcari, attended ND as did 13 other extended family members. “I guess you could say we are pretty fanatic about ND,” acknowledges Kayla.
When Kayla was eight years old she tagged along with her sister to a pole vault practice just to see what it was about. She picked up a pole and it was love at first jump. “It’s thrilling, challenging, super hard, and I love it,” says Kayla. “There’s no better feeling than flying through the air.” Their parents realized their daughters’ talent and drove them to practice sessions in Warwick, N.Y. where the girls attended the Hudson Valley Flying Circus in the summer and fall months.
Ann is now a graduate student earning a master’s degree in global health and is competing for Notre Dame’s track team as a fifth year senior due to additional eligibility she received after a knee injury she suffered at the end of her sophomore indoor season. She tore her ACL, MCL, and meniscus and required surgery that included cutting and stretching her hamstring for extra support to the knee, and then a second surgery to remove a screw. After a full year of recovery and hard work, she has been jumping better than ever. She can recall the day of the injury: “It was May 2010 at the end of the indoor season and I was at a meet. I was pretty excited going into it and jumped well for my first few rounds. But on one jump, I landed wrong, at a strange angle, and felt my knee collapse. The pain was so intense I blacked out.”
When asked if Jacob Brown, the women’s track and field coach at Ridgewood, remembered the sisters, he responded: “Do I remember them? They are two of my best of all time!” He describes them as really hard working girls, who are a pleasure to work with, travel with, and even hang out with.”
With Ann’s upcoming graduation, she reflects on her next move: “I’ll miss ND, jumping, and being with my sister,” she says. “It makes me sad to think about it and feels weird that I won’t be coming back to ND. But it is also important for me to always be working towards the next goal and I am really excited about that.”
There’s little doubt that her sister Kayla will continue her record-setting streak at Notre Dame, which will give Ann a way to stay linked to the sport. The sisters are as connected to one another as the fingers on their hands and distance will not likely change that. As Charlotte Bronte, the eldest of three sisters, stated: “The value of a sister’s affection is like nothing in this world.” Bronte would be proud of Ann and Kayla’s affection and pride in each other.