Samantha Smith's three sports have at least one thing in common - they're all airborne.
In the fall, Smith is jumping, twisting and somersaulting from a diving board. In gymnastics she's executing some of the same moves while competing in floor exercise, vault and uneven bars.
In the spring, pole vault is one of Smith's specialties in track and field and her expertise in her other sports make her the best girls' pole vaulter in Brainerd High School history. At the Section 8-3A True Team meet she pole vaulted 10-6 to eclipse the previous mark of 10-0.
"True Team meets are really fun because everyone counts," Smith said. "It was really dark when we got to 10-6, but my run felt good. I had a new pole, and that helped. I didn't have any expectations so that made it easier. I gave it a shot, and it worked on my last attempt."
The height, one of the top eight in the state this spring, bettered Smith's previous best of 9-7.
Smith said her other sports make her feel more comfortable in pole vault.
"It helps me awareness-wise," she said. "I haven't gotten myself to land on my back yet (in pole vault). That kind of freaks me out.
"I'm more comfortable now definitely than I was a year or two ago. Pole vault is still scarier for me than gymnastics. I'm landing with an object in my hands instead of nothing."
Warrior girls' head coach Dan Clabo said athletic ability makes Smith a perfect pole vaulter.
Sport: Track and field
Other sports: Diving, gymnastics
Career highlight: Breaking 11-dive school record
Grade-point average: 3.7
Favorite subject: Chemistry
Favorite food: Meatball subs
Favorite movie: "Baby Mama"
Future plans: Pursue degree in education or science, attend Winona State, compete in gymnastics
Athlete she admires: Former Warrior Jess Bye
Parents: P.J. and Kelly Smith
"We just started pole vaulting with her last year," he said. "She's just very good athletic, being a diver and gymnast. She has that body awareness that makes her a good pole vaulter.
"She also has the upper-body strength and speed to use the pole and get up and over the bar. When you're looking for a pole vaulter you look for that kind of ability. To have that package is hard to find in a pole vaulter."
Warriors pole vault coach Steve Kimble also said Smith is an ideal pole vaulter.
"Sam is probably the ideal athlete, if not because she's a gymnast, it's her speed, size, strength and most importantly her attitude," he said. "She's certainly a daredevil.
"I could be coaching her at anything. If I was coaching her in table tennis, I would be excited about showing up at practice with her every day. Coaches go to practice to enjoy kids. Sam has certainly made my year enjoyable. Whether she broke the school record or not she's got the personality that she's so fun to coach. Mix all that together and that's why she's the Warrior Female Athlete of the Year."
Kimble thought Smith could break the school record if she dedicated herself.
"When she tried pole vault last year she would just show up and have an honor roll performance," Kimble said. "We called it the 'Sam Smith School of Pole Vault.' No practice. Just show up, run and jump over the bar.
"I told her this winter she could be a school record holder if she would commit. I don't think she believed me at first, but it didn't take her long to believe she could go 10 feet. I think she's got 11 feet in her."
Other notable efforts:
• Kelsi Ring, track and field, won two titles in the Section 8-3A girls' True Team meet.
• Nikki Anderson, softball, pitched shutouts against Fergus Falls and Apollo.
• Sean Halverson, golf, was medalist in a CLC meet at Oak Hill and in a CLC meet at Willmar.
• Jackson Ronnei, golf, tied for medalist honors in a CLC meet at Oak Hill.
• T.J. Struss, track and field, won three events and was on a winning relay in the Brainerd triangular.
• Allison Reuer, track and field, won two events and was on a winning relay in the Brainerd triangular.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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