The rapid rise of Kristen Hixson continued Sunday night.
Hixson, a 2010 Chippewa Hills graduate and pole vault standout who went on to Division II national record-setting stardom at Grand Valley State University, is now considered among the best nationally after finishing fifth last weekend at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
After claiming the Division II national title in the pole vault as a senior at GVSU last year with a record-setting leap of 14-foot-9 ¼, Hixson set her sights firmly on the national stage.
By medaling and taking fifth place Sunday via a personal record-tying vault of 4.5 meters, it is clear that Hixson is making good on her current challenge.
“I’m still smiling about it,” Hixson said of her weekend at the USATF Outdoor Championships. “My goal was just to stay solid and stay consistent. If I did that, I knew it would place me high enough. And that’s exactly what I did. I felt good, relaxed and confident the whole meet. It really paid off in the end.”
Jenn Suhr, the pole vault world record holder and Olympic gold medalist, won with a pole vault of 4.82 meters. Sandi Morris (4.65), Demi Payne (4.60) and Katie Nageotte (4.55) took second through fourth followed by Hixson in fifth.
Suhr, now 33 years old, did not begin pole vaulting until 2004 before becoming the world’s best in a short amount of time. The ascension of Suhr over the past decade is a clear motivator for Hixson.
“Talk about a motivation,” Hixson said of Suhr. “How thankful I am to compete with the world record holder. How many people get to say that? Not a lot. When you surround yourself with good competition, you hopefully rise to their level. I think I’m getting there. It was awesome to see myself in the same group as such amazing vaulters.”
Being at a best of 4.5 meters only a year after college gives Hixson plenty of reason to believe that best pole vaulting days are ahead.
“I’m only a year out of college so I’m very hopeful I’ll get there one day,” said Hixson.
Suhr’s American outdoor record of 4.92 meters was set in 2008 at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Hixson won a state title as a senior at Chippewa Hills in 2010 by leaping 12-foot-4, while she continued to excel at Grand Valley State until the high-water mark in May of 2014 when she broke the Division II record en route to her national title.
While Hixson has compiled an outstanding pole vaulting career at every level of competition, she does not forget about her days at Chippewa Hills where her love and excellence in the event were molded.
“I still talk to (Chippewa Hills girls track and field coach) Sally Schafer frequently,” Hixson said. “I’ll send them an encouraging text when I know they have a big meet coming up. The fact that they continue to be greater than when I was there is great to see. It’s so exciting. They always text me when one of my records is broken.”
Hixson’s next event is the Grand Haven Beach Vault on July 11, while on Wednesday she found out she is invited to the NACAC Senior Area Championships in Costa Rica which is scheduled for August 7-9.
“I’m so excited for the Costa Rica trip,” added Hixson.