Jumping for success

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For the uninitiated, the pole vault is likely the most daunting of all high school track and field disciplines.


It’s a little scary for athletes to participate in and a tad frightening for parents to watch.


“A lot of parents tell my mom they can’t believe she can watch me (pole vault) and mom says ‘This isn’t half as scary as what she does in gymnastics.’


“I guess the fear isn’t really there with me,” Saint Michael’s Makiah Hunt said.


The Level 8 gymnast, who trains 16 hours a week at Gymnastics Energy in St. Catharines, has combined training in both sports to succeed at the provincial level. She qualified for this year’s provincial gymnastics championships and recently won the OFSAA junior girls pole vault to go along with the provincial midget crown she captured in 2013.


“Gymnastics goes hand in hand with pole vaulting and I’ve always had a good track and field background,” the Grade 10 student said. “I think pole vault is made for me.”


In addition to her long hours preparing for gymnastics competitions, she trains in pole vault in Niagara Falls twice a week with Paul Peebles and once a week in Bolton with 310 Running.


“It’s a lot of time management and sometimes two practices a day. It’s hard to manage school and this but you have to try and make it work,” she said. “I’m up late obviously and I’m always on the go.”


Her motivation is to compete at the next level.


“I really want a scholarship in the States for pole vaulting so you obviously need to have high grades and be at that level. You have to do what you have to do.”


The honour roll student has always been interested in going away from home to attend school and she is intrigued by an American education.


“It’s better to get a track and field scholarship in the States because you can get a full ride.”


If the U.S. dream doesn’t work out, she will follow her older brother, J.T., who is planning to attend the University of Guelph.


Her brother, an OFSAA high jump champion when he was in Grade 11 at Saint Michael’s, has always been an inspiration for her.


“We always have friendly competitions,” she said. “He won that OFSAA gold and coming into Grade 9 I wanted an OFSAA gold which I did get. But he has one up on me because he won nationals.


“He definitely motivates me.”


At last year’s youth nationals, she won a silver medal. This year, Makiah is planning to attend youth and junior nationals and has already achieved the 3.2-metre standard to compete in pole vault at the junior nationals.


She jumped 3.4 metres to win the junior girls pole vault crown at OFSAA this spring after setting an OFSAA midget girls record last with a leap of 2.85 metres.


The sky’s the limit as she aims for her next target.


“I really want to jump four metres this summer,” she said. “It’s going to take hard work obviously, pushing through hard days and getting comfortable at higher heights.”


Saint Michael’s coach Ryan Dudley is confident Hunt can achieve whatever she desires.


“She works hard, she’s a good student and she has got a committed mother,” he said.

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