They share a birthday and their greatest passion – pole vaulting.
Athena and Justice Masolini, sisters who are exactly one year apart in age, have started to make their ascent in Arizona high school pole vaulting.
Two weeks ago, Athena, a senior at Saguaro, finished second in the girls pole vault at the Chandler Rotary Inviational with a vault of 11 feet, 6 inches. She came close at 12 feet and lost the title to Phoenix Desert Vista junior Vanessa Davis, who became only the third high school girl in Arizona history to clear 13 feet.
“I went out at 12 feet,” Athena said. “Beforehand, I was kind of nervous about going at that height. But at the Chandler Rotary meet, I went for it, and I felt, I could jump 13 feet that day if I hadn’t blown through my poles. I was ready for it. It was kind of unexpected.”
Justice, a junior at Saguaro, who is three inches shorter than Athena at 5 foot, 7 inches, has cleared 11 feet. She feels her confidence is starting to sky-rocket.
Both were born on Oct.15, which makes it easy on the parents, who can double up on the birthday party for the girls.
“It’s a struggle but it’s a special struggle,” Athena says, jokingly.
“The parents certainly love it,” Justice said.
“One birthday makes it easy,” Athena said.
The sisters started with gymnastics, before evolving into pole vaulting. It was a natural move. Having body awareness and control is vital to being a good pole vaulter.
A vaulter needs a combination of speed and strength, along with balance and control.
They began vaulting three years ago with Risen Performance, which is run out of former OIympic gold medalist Nick Hysong’s north Phoenix home.
Hysong still holds the Arizona high school record for the pole vault at 17 feet, 4 ½ inches that he set in 1990 at Tolleson.
“It takes years and years,” Athena said. “What they say is that a vaulter doesn’t really peak until he or she hits 30. You gradually grow in the pole vault. Every inch, I’ll take it.”
Neither of their parents did the pole vault in school but they were track and field athletes. Their father was a high jumper and their mother a 400-meter runner.
They don’t have the desire to go back to gymnastics, but Justice said, “Coaching gymnastics is always fun.”
“Gymnastics really helps with the pole vault,” Athena added.
They grew out of gymnastics, but they know height doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage when they see the best female high school pole vaulter, Desiree Freier of Texas is only 5-1. She has jumped 14-3 ¼.
“It’s really what you do with it,” Justice said.
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