By Morgan Van Lanen, Aviator editor-in-chief
Kylie Swiekatowski can fly through the air at 12 feet high and not be scared at all.
“I like being high up,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me, but a lot of people think that it would be scary. I think it’s fun. I wouldn’t recommend pole vaulting for people who are afraid of heights, though.”
Swiekatowski, a junior who won the pole vault at the WIAA Division 1 state track meet last year, is again standing out this season. Her highest jump ever was last year at regionals, when she cleared 12 feet, 7 inches. She took first at state by clearing 12-3.
How does one begin pole vaulting? Swiekatowski explained that gymnastics is what got her – and many other females – started. She tried it for the first time in the fall of her freshman year.
“I was in gymnastics and my friend, Bonnie Draxler, was doing really well in pole vaulting at Wrightstown, and she told me that I should try it out,” she said.
“My parents supported my decision. At the time I was coming to an end in gymnastics, and track was a new sport that I was starting to pick up. I caught onto pole vaulting pretty quickly.”
Don Penza, who has been the girls pole vaulting coach at De Pere for three seasons, believes that Swiekatowski’s success comes from her athletic abilities.
“Kylie’s extremely fast and has great jumping abilities,” he said. “She is the most athletic and fast girl that I have ever coached. She has so much drive.”
Additionally, Kylie’s personality helps makes her better than the rest, according to Penza.
“Psychologically, she’s laid back,” he said. “She doesn’t take herself out and she competes calmly. Also, she’s willing to put in a lot time and effort.”
A normal day of practice for Swiekatowski is about two hours long and consists of she and three other girls driving to a warehouse in Ashwaubenon that they rent during the regular season and offseason. There, the pole vaulters practice and are coached by Kylie’s dad, Bill, and Coach Penza.
She has never been seriously injured, but Swiekatowski said she has suffered from bad falls while doing the sport.
“There’s definitely risk to pole vaulting,” she said. “You can fall off the mat, not make it into the pit, land in the box, and you’re really high up.”
Pole vaulting isn’t the only event that Kylie participates in. She was a member of the 400-meter relay team which consisted of Amber Jackson, Elyse Gmack, and Corissa Worth that took third at state last season. She is running it again this year, along with the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
Pole vaulting, though, is Swiekatowski’s favorite event and the one she is most dedicated to.
“It’s difficult at meets to manage the different events because I’m supposed to be pole vaulting, but then I’ll have to go run a race,” she said. “I know I want pole vaulting to come first, but I still have a relay team who counts on me.”
Kylie hopes to win state again this year; however, she has even bigger plans when it comes to her future.
“I want to continue pole vaulting in college, she said. “I want to go to a Division I school.
“You can’t get an actual offer until July 1st after your junior year, but I have gotten letters showing interest, and I’m starting to tour schools now, too.”