For years Caroline Brailsford has been considered vertically challenged.

At 5-foot-8, the Patrick Henry senior has always been told she is small for volleyball, a sport she has long starred in.

As a budding pole vaulter she’s getting a different message.”It’s great to finally be tall for a sport,” Brailsford said with a laugh.

And it’s a sport she continues moving up in.

Having twice cleared 11 feet 6 inches this winter, Brailsford enters the VHSL Group AAA indoor track and field championships with the state’s second best vault.

The pole vault will be held today at the meet, which runs today and Saturday at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.

More impressive than Brailsford’s personal best height is the quickness with which she got there.

Until this winter, Brailsford’s best was 9-6.

Brailsford, a four-year starter for the Patriots volleyball team and the Region IV co-player of the year this fall, credits the incredible improvement to an increased focus on vaulting, primarily through her involvement with the New River Valley Pole Vault Club.

Virginia Tech pole vault coach Bob Phillips is the club’s director and head coach.

“I started the club in response to requests from local kids and high school coaches to provide an opportunity for pole vaulting to re-emerge as an event in this area,” said Phillips, who wasn’t able to offer specific comments on Brailsford because of NCAA rules. “I am really happy to see the kids in the club having success.”

Patrick Henry outdoor track coach Chad Cox encouraged Brailsford to look into the club.

Since August, she has been working out with the club a couple of times a week.

“Before, it was just something fun I liked doing for my school,” said Brailsford, who won Northwest Region titles in the vault indoors and outdoors her junior year.

This indoor season her personal best marks kept falling.

Only Tennessee signee Felecia Majors of South County, with a mark of 12-2, has a higher vault. First Colonial’s Jacqueline Meeks also has cleared 11-6.

The improvement has led to a new attitude.

“Now I’ve started seeing myself more as a pole vaulter than just as a volleyball player,” said Brailsford, who, like many standout female vaulters, also has a background in gymnastics.

Brailsford, an honors student who attends the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School, also sees vaulting as something she would like to pursue at the next level.

She admits that a best of 11-6 might not normally draw much attention from college coaches, but she is hopeful that the fact that she got there from 9-6 in a single season helps demonstrate her potential.

Brailsford pointed out that her focus during work with the NRV Vault Club, to this point, has been only on the “bottom half” of her jump, including planting the pole in the box.

“I haven’t even started working on the top half yet,” she said.

Brailsford said she believes there’s no reason she can’t become a competitive vaulter in college, “If I can start practicing every day, and spending a lot more one-on-one time with coaches.”

Brailsford recently took an official recruiting visit to Virginia Tech, and also is looking at UVa and North Carolina.

For the time being she will continue to take instruction from a variety of sources, including her parents, who have been supportive of her new passion for launching herself skyward with a long fiberglass pole.

“Both my parents try to give me advice,” Brailsford admitted with a laugh. “But they have no idea what they are talking about.”

Clearly, though, it’s not hurting her.


Barnett Vaulter Magazine
Barnett Vaulter Magazine

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