Since her time on the Shawnee Mission Northwest track and field team, Christen Guenther has gradually improved her ability as a pole-vaulter —to the point where the Olympic Trials were in sight after her career at Brigham Young University.
Although she peaked over the Olympic B standard, the needed 4.31-meter mark was matched by 27 other vaulters who made her come up just short of making a trip to Eugene, Ore.
Guenther holds the BYU outdoor record, but her vault of 4.25 meters at the Texas Relays did not get her a chance at London later this month.
Becoming an Olympic level vaulter, capable of competing against the best in the world, can take years.
“Track and field Olympic hopefuls make a lot of sacrifices, but it’s all worth it if they get to see their dreams come true,” Guenther said.
Getting to the Olympic A standard might be a few years down the road for Guenther. She said a vaulter not only must jump 4.50 meters but also must finish in the top three at the Olympic Trials for a spot on the United States Team.
“To do this you have to really have a passion for the sport and a fiery determination to make your dream a reality,” Guenther said. “Without that, it would be impossible to put yourself through the rigorous workouts that elite track athletes do.”
In the wake of her college career, Guenther holds both the indoor and outdoor records at BYU.
Her best jump came at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational where she cleared 4.30 meters.
Coming in with only the chance of being a tryout athlete for the first part of her freshman season in college, Guenther slowly worked her way up to becoming one of the top competitors for the Cougars.
“My college training was very different from high school,” Guenther said. “The regular lifting and more intense running and conditioning workouts definitely improved my strength and speed, which improved my vault.”
By her junior year, Guenther said she felt like competing at the national level was in her grasp. During that year, she improved her personal record in both indoor events she competed in.
Since both her parents went to BYU, Guenther thought it would be a perfect fit after finishing second at the 6A state tournament her senior season at SM Northwest in 2008.
“Mostly, though, they have a pretty stringent honor code, which was in line with how I lived my life,” Guenther said. “I also wanted to be around people of my same religion.”
Guenther’s well-rounded sporting background, which included soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, swimming, dance and gymnastics, helped her excel in the area of track and field.
“As a whole, they also taught mental sharpness: how to listen to a coach and apply their suggestions, how to learn new skills while improving those I already knew, how to push through a hard workout, and how to approach competition in a positive way,” Guenther said.
“Being able to apply these skills to pole vaulting allowed me to improve greatly as an athlete while my training level increased throughout college.”
During her sophomore year of high school, Guenther said, she was looking for an event she wanted to compete in after giving up soccer. She thought pole vaulting might be a good way to go.
Guenther said that all the sports that she grew up with helped her, but two sports in particular helped develop her pole-vaulting skills. She said soccer helped develop her speed, and gymnastics helped with her strength.
Still none of this would have been possible for Guenther without unyielding support from her friends, coaches and family.
“They were always willing to enroll me in whatever sport I was interested in and were always there to cheer me on me at games or competitions,” Guenther said. “Knowing they were proud of me gave me confidence that I was a capable athlete and reassurance that my hard work and their sacrifices were worth it.”
With her college career concluded, Guenther still hopes that there’s a chance to compete for another chance at the Olympics in the next go-round.
by: Ryan McCarthy