Athletics Spring 2016

Hixson ready to vault to Summer Olympics

by Michele Coffill
photo by Amanda Pitts
video by Jeremy Knickerbocker

Kristen Hixson, ’14, is a fan of routine.

She leaves her job at 2 p.m. each weekday to drive to Allendale to practice at the same facility and with the same coach who prepared her to win three NCAA pole vault championships.

Hixson is hoping that routine and a stringent practice schedule will lead her to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August. Her road to Rio begins in July at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Again, she’s hoping that routine and familiarity work in her favor. Eugene was the site of the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships where Hixson finished fifth with a personal best vault of 14 feet-9 inches (4.5 meters) and qualified for another pre-Olympic event.

Kristen Hixson pole vaulting

Last August, Hixson was in Costa Rica on a world stage at the North American Central American and Caribbean Championships. She matched her personal best with another 4.5-meter vault, winning a gold medal and earning an invitation to the trials in Eugene.

Hixson said hearing the national anthem playing while accepting a gold medal in Costa Rica was surreal, and also good motivation to get to the Olympics for a chance to hear it again.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Hixson made a conscious decision to pursue her Olympic dreams. To do so meant finding a part-time job that would allow her flexibility to practice daily and occasionally travel to meets.

“I love the pole vault and I want to go to the Olympics,” Hixson said. “Right now, this is where I am. I’m enjoying myself and having a good time.”

Lou Andreadis, the Lakers’ associate head coach for track and field, works with Hixson daily as he did during her collegiate career. Hixson is often ranked within the top 10 in U.S. women’s pole vault, and has been as high as 34th in the world.

“She has athletically matured, meaning she does not allow her emotions to get in the way of her technique,” Andreadis said.

Hixson said she rarely varies her approach or other points of her technique. “My approach and jump should feel better the higher the bar goes,” she said.

She won the NCAA Division II indoor and outdoor pole vault championships in 2012 and set the NCAA outdoor record at the 2014 meet in Allendale with a 4.5-meter vault.

In high school, Hixson won a state championship with a 12 foot-4 inch vault while at Chippewa Hills in Remus. She wanted to try pole vaulting after watching her brother in high school.

And it seems the stage for Hixson was set then.

“I wanted to try it in junior high. I did it and was an inch off the school record,” she said.

Behind the Lens

Laker Olympics hopefuls

Here are more athletes from the Laker community who were either invited, or hoping to be invited, to 2016 Olympic trials in their respective sports:

• STEEPLE CHASE: Betsy Graney, ’14

• DISCUS: Sam Lockhart, ’12

• HAMMER: Darien Thornton (senior)

• 110 HURDLES: Sean Wells (senior)

• MARATHON: Alan Peterson, ’14;  Courtney Brewis ’13; Dathan Ritzenhein (assistant coach)

Page last modified January 27, 2017