Mitchell’s Taylor Anderson has always been adept in the water. The junior is among the area’s best swimmers with a state title in the 50-yard freestyle this past season.
So it was understandable people did a few double takes when she decided to give pole vaulting a try three years ago. Now, she is just as strong in that event, soaring to heights that have her seeded among the top four heading into Saturday’s Class 3A state meet in Jacksonville.
“(Pole vaulting) was something different and I thought it would be fun,” Anderson said. “It took some time to get used to it, but I’ve improved so much. Technically, this is the best season I’ve had.”
Anderson’s foray into pole vaulting almost had a quick ending. Russell Jerothe, who coached Mitchell’s vaulters three years ago, considered cutting Anderson because he did not think she was coordinated enough to master the event.
“In the end, I knew she was a good athlete and that she would eventually get the hang of it,” said Jerothe, who runs High Standards in Pasco County.
The first thing for Anderson to conquer was the fear. Being in the air can be disorienting and many newcomers to the vault are unsure whether they are going to land on their back, feet or neck. The technical aspects also were tough because there are so many different elements: the run up of 106 feet, the planting of a fiberglass pole and the gymnastic ability to invert your body in midair.
It was even more difficult for Anderson, who had to divide her time between two sports.
“I’ve been able to juggle both,” she said. “I’m able to get to practices for each during the week. Usually, swimming is in the morning and pole vaulting is in the afternoon. When one sport is in season, I’ll concentrate on that more.”
Anderson started gingerly in the pole vault at heights between 6 to 8 feet. She has put it together the past two seasons and now ascends to heights unimaginable to her when she started.
She cleared 10 feet, 6 inches to win last week’s region meet to put her in contention for a state title.
“I’ll probably have to vault 11-6 in order to have a shot,” Anderson said. “I believe I can do it and win. I just have to stay mentally tough.”