Senior Meagan Martin is the Vanderbilt record holder in the pole vault, having cleared 3.95 meters at February's SEC Inddor Championships. The Lake Mary, Fla., native hopes to build on that success and increase her personal best to more than 4.10 meters this spring. The oldest of three sisters, Martin has traveled the world competing with the U.S. Rock Climbing National Team in locations like Bulgaria and Scotland. Martin sat down with Commodore Nation last month to discuss her game: Family, friends, climbing and falling.
On her circuitous route to pole vaulting:
"Originally I was a gymnast. Both of my parents were gymnasts. My dad did college gymnastics and went to the Olympic trials, and my mom's been a coach ever since I was a baby. I did that until I was 11 and then I kind of knew I didn't want to do it anymore. So I played soccer for a season, and one of the girls that I played with took me to a rock-climbing gym. I started rock climbing and did that competitively for four years, then one of the girls who I competed against happened to pick up pole vaulting when she got to high school. My mom encouraged me to try it and I'm glad I did--you can't get a college scholarship in rock climbing."
On her first week as a pole vaulter:
"When you first start out, you don't get right at it. There are a lot of drills that you have to do. But I thought it was fun--jumping in a sand pit--and I was having a good time. I guess I liked it right away and I started progressing, and it becomes more and more fun when you start bending the pole and you're jumping higher and falling farther; I like to fall, so that's something that I enjoy."
On how often she rock climbs and where she goes:
"There's a gym 10 minutes away from campus. During the season I don't get to go as much, but in the fall I go there two or three times a week and even get outside and go climbing on some weekends. We usually drive to Chattanooga to Little Rock City or to Monteagle--there's a place called Foster Falls where you go rope climbing. There's some good climbing in Alabama and Georgia, too.
"I do two different kinds of climbing: I boulder and I sport climb. Bouldering is done without a rope, but you don't really go higher than around 16 or 20 feet and you have crash pads. Sport climbing is with a rope and there are long routes that you go up. You're clipping in with your rope all the way up--that's called lead climbing.
"My favorite place to sport climb would probably be the Red River Gorge, which is in Kentucky. For bouldering I would probably say, as of right now, while I really like Little Rock City, it's a close second to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado."
On her friendship with Commodore basketball player Jordan Coleman, who also attended Lake Mary High School:
"Our senior year, we actually won state championships within minutes of each other. I had just won and then she won the triple jump. It was pretty awesome.
"She committed before I did. I hadn't visited yet but she had already gone and was telling me all about it. That was just another reason to come here. And we're still really good friends."
On her routine during competition:
"I do the same body movements before every time I jump. I put my pole in my hand and look down at the tape measure. I rock back and forth a little bit and shake my pole, and then I put it up, step back and I go. If I feel weird about it, I do the whole thing over again.
"I also pray before I jump--always. And I tend to wear the same socks--they're washed, but I wear the same pair, usually on a season-by-season basis.... I also paint my nails the night before a meet. It might not be the same [color], but I always have fresh nails.
"There are some people who have very long pre-run rituals that are kind of funny to watch. You notice them. Mine is just something small, but it is the same every time."
On her plans following her May graduation:
"I'm not sure. I'm thinking of climbing again for a while and seeing what happens with that. Climbing is becoming more and more popular every year, so hopefully it will keep getting bigger. Climbing is supposed to be in the 2020 Olympics--that's the buzz going around the climbing community right now."