BRADENTON — One of Atascadero’s very own has earned all-American honors in Florida, two Saturdays ago. Chrissi Carr, graduated from Atascadero High School in 2012 and has spent the past four years at the University of California, San Diego refining her skills in the pole vault. On May 27, the final day of the 2017 Division II Track and Field Championships from IMG Academy Stadium in Florida, Carr finished tied for sixth place in the pole vault.
Carr earned her all-american status after she cleared the height of 12’10.75” on her first attempt in the fourth round of the finals. Carr opted to pass on the opening height of 11’10.75” and went straight to the second round. On her first jump, Carr cleared 12’2.75” to advance to the third round where she cleared 12’6.75.” She was joined by 11 other vaulters in the fourth round and of those 11, only nine advanced to the fifth round.
The fourth round was the last one completed for Carr, she cleared 12’10.75 advancing to the fifth round where the height was 13’2.5.” After three unsuccessful tries, Carr’s collegiate career came to a close, as an all-American. Carr has an interesting start to her pole vaulting career, she grew up in gymnastics and then chose to focus on basketball through her first three years of high school. Carr’s tall frame and athleticism seemed like a perfect fit for the basketball court, but due to a knee injury her junior year, she decided to try her hand at the pole vault.
Jan Johnson, Carr’s high school pole vaulting coach and former bronze medal winner in the 1972 olympics in pole vault calls Carr’s story, “one of the best stories he has ever seen in pole vaulting.”
Johnson recalled that it was in the fall of Carr’s senior year, after injuring her knee during her junior basketball campaign.
“She comes out in the fall and we pole vault for two weeks, maybe three weeks and just right away you can tell she is going to be real good,” Johnson recalls. “And then she comes down the runway on a jump and her takeoff knee gives out.”
It was at this point that it seemed Carr’s athletic career would come to an end. Carr’s injury left her unable to walk, and her father, a local orthopedic surgeon, had to come pick her up and carry her off the field and to their vehicle.
A month passed without any sign of Carr. An injury to the takeoff leg of a pole vaulter is equivalent to a flat tire on a racecar. But a couple days later, Carr showed up to practice saying she was ready to pole vault, bad knee and all. Johnson told her, “You know you are going to need to get that knee fixed up, and she just told me ‘no I want to pole vault, I think I can do it.’ So we tried to pole vault left handed.”
For the next couple weeks, Carr and Johnson worked on vaulting left handed, and jumping off of the other leg (non injured leg.) Eventually, after playing around with different techniques, right hand right foot, left hand right foot, the pair eventually decided on a wrong foot takeoff. Carr entered the PAC-8 meet and the CIF southern section finals, with a bronze medal winning pole vaulting coach, jumping off of the wrong leg.
“Coaches from the other teams were saying things like ‘man, Jan Johnson’s kid is jumping off the wrong foot, do you think we should tell him?” Johnson said full of laughter, “and then she jumped awesome.”
Carr spent her entire senior season, her first season ever pole vaulting, doing so with the wrong form, and is now an all-American. After her senior season, Carr had surgery on her injured knee, and began learning the proper way to vault at UCSD. Carr has expressed interest in jumping at a few of the all-comers meets this summer at Atascadero high school. The meets are held Wednesday nights at 6pm and run from June 28- July 26 and are open to all ages! So come race your children and watch an all-american all in one evening.