KARLEIGH PARKER’S ROAD TO RIO
My name is Karleigh Parker; born and raised in Woodstock, Ontario (dairy capital of Canada). I am a 23 year old pole vaulter looking to pursue my dream of competing for Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Ever since I was little, the Olympics have always been a dream of mine. This dream started when I was 6 years old and went to a track and field camp in my hometown. Ever since then I’ve always had a love for the sport. When I was about 12 years old I started to compete in the summers competitively. My events at that time were javelin, long jump and the 100m. I was set on becoming an elite athlete in these events- little did I know that some years later I would pick of the crazy event of pole vaulting.
It wasn’t until grade 9 when my high school hockey coach, Kylie, encouraged me to try pole vault. I said, “Sure, why not! It looks fun!” This was my first season competing in pole vault and I was one place shy of making it to OFSAA (Ontario high school championships). At the time, this wasn’t at all discouraging because it was just some fun event that I picked up and I was convinced that I was going to go play hockey in the NCAA. I played hockey very competitively as well- playing for the Bluewater Hawks AA team, then switching to the London Midget Devilettes AA team and then in grade 12 I played for the London Junior AA team. Playing on these teams set me up for multiple opportunities to play in the United States on a University team. However, it wasn’t until my victory lap year (grade 13/OAC as some may remember) where I made the decision to quit hockey and focus solely on vaulting.
Now, back to pole vault. At the end of my grade 10 year, my high school coach referred me to my second coach, Kristian Wilson whom I trained with part-time throughout the winter/high school season of my grade 11 year. During this year I improved a lot and had the opportunity to compete for Canada at the World Youth Championships in Italy. This was an incredible experience and this is when I thought the Olympics could be a possibility. This brings me to my grade 12 year. During this year I was playing hockey for the London Devilettes Junior AA team, which was very time consuming. It made it very difficult to train for pole vault- but I still made time. During this year, I started traveling to York University to train with my now current coach Arye Rosenoer (outside of my NCAA coach which we will get to later). 2010 was the year of the World Junior Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick where I had the opportunity to compete in front of the home crowd. Although I did not do as well as I wanted to, jumping in front of a Canadian crowd with so many amazing jumpers from around the world was still an amazing experience. This now brings me to my victory lap (grade 13) year. This was the year when I made the decision to quit hockey and focus solely on vaulting. This was one of the hardest decisions I had to make as I Ioved hockey just as much as track and field; however, I realized that I would have more opportunities if I pursued my love for pole vault. This year (2010/2011) I was now training full-time for pole vault. I would drive 2 hours to York University, 3 times a week to be trained by my coach, Arye. This was very time consuming, but it was worth it in the end as I was selected to compete for Canada again at the Jr. Pan Am Championships in Florida where I placed 3rd. Another highlight of this year was signing to compete for Western Kentucky University (WKU) on a full-scholarship where I just recently graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Exercise Science and minoring in Nutrition.
Going to school in U.S has been one of the best experiences of my life thus far. My 4 years at WKU have flown by and have been full of many ups and downs (figuratively and literally speaking). During my freshman year at WKU I developed a stress fracture in my shin which put me out for 6 weeks during the outdoor season. Although I was out for 6 weeks, I came back and won 1st at the Sunbelt Conference that year. Being forced to take 6 weeks off due to injury was a huge set back. After the Sunbelt Conference I was forced to be in a full ankle/foot boot for another 6 weeks. Due to this, I wasn’t able to compete in the summer at all. My coach at WKU, Jarrett Murphy, was very supportive during this time and got me back on my feet during my sophomore year. During this year I surpassed my PB (personal best) of 4.01 meters (approx. 13 ft) which I set in high school and jumped 4.05m at my home meet. This jump secured my spot at the NCAA East Regionals. In order to make NCAA Nationals you must place in the top 12- I did not this year. Although I didn’t make Nationals, I was still happy with my improvements that year and how I recovered from my injury. After I came home however, I somehow lost my interest in vaulting over the summer as well as I wanted to make sure that I was fully recovered from my recurring injury. I decided to take the summer off and attack my Junior (3rd) year with full force. Although my intentions were to improve a lot my junior year, I got off track and had a very poor attitude towards vaulting. I still got 1st at indoor conference and 2nd at outdoor conference but I struggled improving my PB a lot that year. I had a very difficult time mentally moving back to my full-approach and this hindered my ability to jump higher and ultimately make it to NCAA East Regionals. Needless to say, I got off track mentally and shut down and again did not compete all summer last year (2014).
Coming back to WKU my senior year, I was determined to get back on track mentally and keep pursing my goals. I heard that there were a few Canadian National teams that I could potentially make the following summer (2015). The two teams that I was looking to make were/are the Pan Am Games in Toronto or the FISU games in South Korea. The standard for both of these events were/are 4.15m. My PB going into my senior year was 4.05 (set in my sophomore year). I was determined to make this standard as it had been a long time since I had the opportunity to compete for Canada and wanted it so bad. At my final home meet of my career at WKU I cleared 4.15m with ease. It was an amazing feeling. I had my friends and family watching me and I knew it was only up from there! Literally! A few weeks later I was in Lexington, Kentucky where I surpassed that mark and jumped 4.21m. This jump secured my spot on the 2015 FISU team where I will now be competing for Canada once again in July!!!!!
Seeing how much I have improved this year physically, technically and more importantly mentally has really made me realize that my ultimate goal of competing for Canada at the 2016 Olympics is very possible. My clearance over the bigger heights I’ve made this year boggles my coaches mind and mine. The standard for the Olympic games is 4.50m. I have jumped 4.21 but have had some great attempts at some higher heights. On paper, I am 29cms away from my Olympic dream but could really use the help from anyone! Training costs myself and my parents a lot of money. With my crazy training regimen, it makes it very hard to have a job to pay for my dreams. Below is the breakdown of what it will cost me through until Olympic Trials next year.
-3 days a week training session at $25 each time = $75/week
$75/week for 9 months = $975
-Gas money to York U 3 times a week = ~$60
$60/week for 9 months= ~$540
-Spikes/Running shoes for the year = ~ $300
-Therapy Expenses (ie. Massages, Physio) = ~ $500
-FISU Team Canada fee = $575
-Athletics Canada/Ontario competing fees= $175
-Entry fees to meets (since unattached I have to pay for all)= ~ $400
-Travel and accommodations for Olympic Trials 2016 = ~ $1200
-Travel and accommodations for several meets starting January 2016 = $1000
-Travel and accommodations for potential meet(s) in California next spring = $1300
Grand Total for the year of training = ~ $7,655-$9,000
My goal= $7000
As seen above, pole vault is a very expensive discipline. My goal is to reach $7,000; however, going above and beyond that number can help me out a tremendous amount. If I go beyond this number, I will be able to purchase new poles that can be vital to me jumping higher.
Thank you for reading my long adventure that has gotten me to where I am, I will be keeping everyone update on how my competitions pan out this summer as well as how my training is going from now until Olympic Trials next summer in 2016! Any donations are greatly appreciated as I can’t do this on my own. Join Team Parker and help me chase my Olympic Dream.