Nicole Talcott has learned to use what’s given to her.
At 5-foot-6 — “On a generous day,” the Rainier High School senior said — she isn’t the tallest athlete. She admits others are faster, but she was quick enough to make the finals in the 100 hurdles at the Class 1A state track and field championships last May.
Thus, a technique-oriented event — like the pole vault — suits her.
That’s how Talcott has excelled in one of track and field’s toughest events to master, an event that requires speed, strength, balance, coordination and a touch of fearlessness.
“Even though it involves talent,” Talcott said, “it’s about how much you practice and put into it.”
This is Talcott’s third year of pole vaulting. But it wasn’t until the Chehalis Activators Invitational last April that her breakthrough came, and started a stretch of the best vaults of her life.
After starting the season clearing 8 feet, she hit 9-6 at the Chehalis Activators. Soon after, she cleared 10-3 to win the 1A District IV title, followed by a career-best 10-9 to place second at the 1A state tournament. That mark would’ve placed her fourth at the Class 4A state meet.
For her late-season breakthrough, she credits the use of a horizontal bungee cord — often used in practice — for overcoming her fear of clearing higher vaults with a larger pole. The higher the vault, the harder the pole is to bend.
“It really worked and helped me get my feet up,” Talcott said. “I got stronger and stronger.”
Her mark of 10-9 was second only to the state’s record-holder in all classifications – Anandae Clark of Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), a four-time state champion. Clark set an all-classification record when she cleared 13 feet at the 2012 Pasco Invitational and set another all-classification state record weeks later when she cleared 12-7 to win her fourth consecutive 1A state title. She’s now competing at Eastern Washington University.
For a brief time, it was Clark and Talcott going toe-to-toe as the final two vaulters competing for a state title when the bar was set at 11 feet. Although Talcott failed to clear in three attempts, she said she cherished the time going up against Clark.
“It was really cool to watch,” Talcott said. “It makes me want to push myself harder. If she can do it, then what’s stopping me?”
With the newfound success, Talcott aims to soar higher.
“I want to break 12 (feet),” she said. “My goal is 12-6.”
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick email@example.com