ST. MARYS — Memorial High School Senior Kelly Heitkamp has a long list of accomplishments that will follow her upon graduation.
Heitkamp has been on the soccer and basketball teams, is a member of National Honor Society, Girl Talk and DECA. She works hard and is dedicated to each of these activities. She recently returned from Ahaheim, Calif., where she competed in an international competition for DECA.
But when asked what defines her - where her heart and soul and passion come into play — track was an easy answer.
Heitkamp is one of the Roughriders’ star pole vaulters, and has been pole vaulting since she was in middle school.
“I have an older sister who ran track and she tried pole vault and she loved it,” Heitkamp said. “So, then, my seventh-grade year, I was like, OK, I’ll try it. And I ended up loving it. There’s so much to it, and I’m on other team sports, but this is more individual. So if I mess up it’s on (me) and not on other people.”
She likes the team spirit and togetherness that come with being on a team sport, like soccer and basketball, but the self-improvement she gets from track is special to her.
“I like working with other people, but sometimes it’s nice to just work on yourself,” Heitkamp said.
Heitkamp said pole vaulting physically demanding and it takes a different kind of endurance than soccer or basketball.
“You run as fast as you can, with a pole in your hand, you jump, and you use every single muscle in your body to lift yourself over the bar,” she said. “I think it’s just, the more you practice, you notice (that) muscles you didn’t even know you had are sore. I don’t know how to strengthen them or anything, but you know they’re there after you vault.”
Last year, Heitkamp saw her hard work pay off when she made it to the state competition despite an injury to her quad she suffered at the beginning of the season.
“It was wrapped up every single meet, and I don’t know how many times I no-heighted, and then somehow, at the end of the year, I just improved,” she said.
No heighting is when a vaulter don’t clear the pole, something Heitkamp mastered in seventh grade.
“I went from being closer to the best to being the absolute worst,” she said. “They day it happened I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was hurt, so I kept running, and I think that made it worse.”
Heitkamp’s injury came in the spring of last year, and she did not recover until later in the summer.
Now, a fully healed Heitkamp has not one, but two goals for this track season — to make it to state again, and to break the school record for pole vault.
“I have been 6 inches away for three years,” she said. “Every time I get to the height, it’s staring me in the face.”
Though graduation will also mean the end of her track career at Memorial High School, Heitkamp is dead set on continuing it at Wright State University in the fall. She has done her research on the school’s team, and is hopeful when it comes to her chances of making it.
“I looked up their other vaulters, and I’m only, 6 inches to a foot away from their best vaulter,” she said. “So, I mean, as a freshman, that’s not that bad.”