Linfield may see one of its own in the Olympics one day. Senior Catherine Street, a pole vaulter on the track and field team, holds the all-time NCAA Division-III outdoor record and has won the conference title four years in a row.
On April 20 at the Northwest Conference Championships, Street cleared the bar at 13 feet 9 3/4 inches, setting a new Division-III record.
Street began her athletic career as a gymnast, but stopped before high school.
“I knew I wanted to go out for track my freshman year, but I had bronchitis and couldn’t run,” Street said. “When my high school head coach found out I was a gymnast, he stuck a pole in my hand and the rest is history.”
In college, Street has had to learn to balance pole vaulting with her education. Street hasn’t been able to train with the team the last couple of years because she is at Linfield’s nursing campus in Portland.
“I’m lucky that I get to vault with my club coaches while I’ve been at the Portland campus,” Street said.
Street has had to find time to train around working 12 hour shifts at the Randall Children’s Hospital for her senior practicum. Her training consists of pole vault technique, sprints, gymnastics work and weight training.
While Street has to work hard, she said she loves everything about the sport.
“The thing I love most about pole vault is the moment of free falling after you’ve cleared a big bar, and you know you’ve made it,” Street said. “Best feeling in the world.”
Along the way, Street has had some fierce competitors to contend with. Abby Schaffer from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., is one of Street’s biggest rivals. The two will get the opportunity to face off in the NCAA Division-III Outdoor Championships in Claremount, Calif., starting May 24.
“Schaffer and I have been going back and forth on the national level,” Street said. “She always brings it at big meets.”
Street also respects fellow Linfield pole vaulter, senior Misty Corwin, as a competitor.
“She’s had some bad luck this season so far, but give her one good day and we are going to have two Linfield vaulters over 4.00 meters this year,” Street said.
Street has been lucky to have people to help hone her talents in the sport. At Linfield, she has received help in the mental realm of the sport.
“Vaulting is 90 percent psychological,” Street said. “At Linfield, I have had a lot of support from my coaches.”
Street has improved physically in the sport as well.
“I think she’s gotten faster,” said Travis Olson, the track and field head coach. “She’s always been pretty sound on her technique, but you also have to be fast.”
After graduating in the spring, Street plans to continue her pole vaulting career. This time, she is setting her sights higher than a Division-III record: the Olympics.
“I hope to qualify for the Olympic Trials, but that’s not where I’m going to stop,” Street said. “I hope to find a job close by so I can keep training and become an elite vaulter. I love vaulting too much to stop after my Linfield career is over.”
Street has set her sights on big goals, but with her impressive work ethic, we just may see Street compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Meghan O’Rourke/Opinion editor
Meghan O’Rourke can be reached at email@example.com.