At the end of the 2015 spring outdoor track season, Ashley Hinton began to experiment with how she planted the pole as a freshman at George Mason University.
The Stafford High graduate fine-tuned a few things during the indoor season for the Patriots, and the changes have paid off. She set a personal best with a leap of 3.50 meters in the pole vault on Feb. 6 at the Scarlet and White Invitational in Boston.
“I completely changed the way I plant the pole,” said Hinton, who is now taking part in the spring outdoor season for the Patriots. “It helps me penetrate into the pit a little bit more. I have a really strong left arm; when I plant, it puts [more] pressure on the pole.”
Hinton also had a new mental approach as a sophomore.
“This year coming in I had a totally different mindset. Last year it was figuring out how things worked,” she said. “I have been focusing in on getting in every workout that I can. I am working on technique.”
The Stafford resident also made a new focus on academics, trying to do as much as she can with her classes early in the week, since she knows most weekends involve a meet.
Some of the Mason athletes, including Hinton, took part in the Colonial Relays on April 1 in Williamsburg, while other members of the team were in California for a meet at Stanford.
George Mason won the outdoor title in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2015, and Hinton said the Patriots are aiming for a repeat this year. The Patriots will host the Mason Spring Invitational on April 9 in Fairfax.
“The team is awesome. They are so supportive,” Hinton said.
Last year, in the outdoor season as a freshman at Mason, she was sixth in the pole vault at the 2015 Tribe Invitational with a mark of 3.15 meters. She set a personal record in the pole vault with a jump of 3.35 at the Mason Spring Invitational.
During the 2015 indoor season she was second in the pole vault at the Father Diamond Invitational and set a personal record with a mark of 3.30 at the Virginia Tech Invitational. But she beat that in Boston in February.
Hinton earned eight letters in track and field, four in cross-country and four in gymnastics while in high school. She was all-conference, all-region and all-state in the pole vault and gymnastics at Stafford High. Hinton was also named to the distinguished honor roll.