Prior to last week’s regional girls track & field meet at Franklin, Center Grove pole vaulter Kylie Falcone said that she felt like clearing 12 feet was within range.
The senior promptly went out and proved it, topping her previous career best by 6 inches and setting a regional record.
On Saturday, Falcone heads into the state meet at Indiana University as one of the favorites in the pole vault. She enters as the No. 2 seed behind Madison’s Maddie Holland, and she’s one of just four girls who vaulted 11 feet, 6 inches or better during the regionals.
Falcone said that she would like to at least place and get on the awards podium, but added that “I feel like first place is in range.”
That she’s in this position now seemed unlikely when Falcone first took up pole vaulting at the suggestion of her best friend, Center Grove teammate Emily Maynard.
Maynard had shown Falcone an article about former Trojans standout Sydney Clute, who is now at Indiana University and ranked among the top vaulters in the country.
“In the article, they talked about how gymnasts were really good at pole vaulting,” recalled Falcone, who grew up competing for Wright’s Gymnastics Academy. “So we came out here and we tried it, and it’s been the best decision I’ve made.”
Alex Basham, who coaches Center Grove’s pole vaulters, was excited by the potential of Falcone and Maynard when he first started working with them.
“Once I found out they came from Wright’s Gymnastics,” Basham said, “I was like, ‘All right, let’s start bringing in more gymnasts.’ Because they’re really good. They know how to control their body up in the air. I just teach them how to run and hold the pole and how to do stuff on the ground, and they do the rest of it pretty well.”
The biggest hurdle initially, Falcone said, was the idea of putting herself in danger; seeing vaulters miss the mat on a landing made her apprehensive. But she placed her trust in Basham and never looked back.
Besides, she noted, vaulting still isn’t as scary as performing on the balance beam.
Falcone has improved rapidly as she’s picked up the mechanics. After topping out at 8 feet as a sophomore, she cleared 10 feet for the first time at last year’s sectional meet. Now, she doesn’t even take her first attempts until the bar is at 10 feet.
Falcone, who will be vaulting for the University of Indianapolis next year, said that she really hit her stride after deciding she wanted to compete at the collegiate level.
“I think that really helped me focus more,” Falcone said. “I told myself, ‘You’re all in. You’re going to go for it, you’re going to do everything you can to get better.'”
She’s not done yet.
IHSAA Girls Track & Field State Finals
Where: Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, Indiana University
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
A glance at the local entrants and their top competition for Saturday’s girls state track & field meet:
Top seed: Maddie Holland, Madison (13 feet)
Local qualifier: Kylie Falcone, Center Grove (12 feet, seeded second)
Top seed: Diamond Mitchell, Avon (19-4 1/2)
Local qualifiers: Paige Saylor, Roncalli (18-1, third); Hailey Goines, Center Grove (17-5 3/4, 10th); Emily Sonderman, Roncalli (17-5 1/4, 14th)
Top seed: Essence Henderson, Lafayette Jeff (146-10)
Local qualifier: Reagan Emberton, Whiteland (120-7, 17th)
Top seed: Katie Isenbarger, Zionsville (5-9)
Local qualifier: Olivia Weston, Greenwood (5-4 1/4, 10th)
Top seed: Henderson (49-7)
Local qualifier: Micheala Adams, Whiteland (39-0, 22nd)
Top seed: Kayland Jackson, Warren Central (14.03 seconds)
Local qualifier: Goines (14.80, fifth)
Top seed: Mitchell (11.73)
Local qualifier: Kiyah Yeast, Center Grove (12.18, ninth)
Top seed: Emma Wilson, Greencastle (4:55.96)
Local qualifier: Val Clark, Center Grove (5:16.02, 25th)
Top seed: Fishers (47.55)
Local qualifier: Center Grove (48.68, sixth); Roncalli (49.39, 13th)
Top seed: Lynna Irby, Pike 54.43
Local qualifier: Hanna Anderson, Greenwood (58.25, 13th)
Top seed: Camille Christopher, Hamilton Southeastern (24.67)
Local qualifier: Yeast (25.61, 11th)