Growing up on a 34-acre farm in California, it’s hard not to enjoy the agricultural lifestyle that comes with it. The horses, the cows, the goats and the dirt roads are part of the countryside charm. Stacy Dragila, former women’s pole vault world record holder and gold medalist, couldn’t resist the charm either.

When she was younger, her neighbors had a daughter around her age and rodeo arena the size of an indoor track arena.“It just became a part of my lifestyle,” said Dragila. “If I’d have grown up in the city I might have been a skateboarder, but because I lived out in the country, rodeo is what I did.”Dragila began her rodeo career at a young age. Her best event was goat tying – where the rider runs the horse down the arena to a spot where the goat is tied to a long rope.

The rider dismounts, runs to the goat on foot, lays the goat down and ties three legs together. Dragila also excelled at breakaway roping, where a calf is roped, and team roping, where two riders take down a calf and rope its hind legs. “Rodeo gave me a lot of confidence of being in high-stress situations,” Dragila said of her time as a roper. “Riding a horse full blast down an arena and then jumping off and trying to wind up this goat and tie it up was an experience.”Rodeo turned out to be more than just a hobby as she reached the state finals twice, on the cusp of making it to national. She once took seventh overall, but only the top five move on to nationals.“I kind of kicked myself in the butt because if I’d have trained a bit harder, I could have been in that group.”Training harder for rodeo doesn’t only include the time spent on the horse in an arena. Dragila described her weekends as pretty tightly scheduled.“It certainly taught me discipline. I think it takes a certain person to get up at 6am to feed the animals and then a lot of the weekend was spent training horses.

We didn’t spend much time hanging out with our friends on a Friday night because the next day it was about going for a competition on a Saturday and Sunday was training.”Her riding career had ended when she was 18 when she went off to college at Idaho State University where she had fallen in love with track and field. That was where she was introduced to pole vaulting and from then on, her career catapulted. She had unknowingly set an American record of 3.05 m, and read about the record in Track and Field News.

Ever since, she has won two gold medals at World Championships, one gold medal and one silver medal at the World Indoor Championships and a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.


Stacy Dragila
Stacy Dragila

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