until the end of her freshman season at Green High School. But less
than a year later, she had won the Division I state championship in
that very event. Now that’s rapid development.
Well, uh … not always. If you’re really talented, you can get really good really fast.
And that brings us to Kelsie Ahbe. She hadn’t even tried pole vaulting until the end of her freshman season at Green High School. But less than a year later, she had won the Division I state championship in that very event.
Now that’s rapid development.
In fact, Ahbe’s vault of 12-1 set a meet record, but fell eight inches short of the state mark established in 2005 by Green graduate Carrie Kayes, who helped motivate Ahbe to take up the sport.
The seeds of Ahbe’s success were planted on the gymnastics floor. She had excelled as a club gymnast, which gave veteran Green coach Dan Gourley the notion that she boasted the athleticism and experience under pressure to follow in Kayes’ footsteps.
“I never expected her to accomplish what she has so quickly, but she’s a tremendous gymnast and she’s very fast,” Gourley explains. “We got her to pole vault last year and she took to it like a duck takes to water.”
Ahbe has indeed thrived in all her athletic endeavors. She won the 400-meter run in the Suburban League meet as a mere freshman, set a school record in the 800, and also plays soccer. She began working on the finer points of pole vaulting with assistant coaches Maedene Pfouts and Eric Allen at the end of her freshman year and the rest is history.
Now a junior, Ahbe didn’t want to be considered Kayes’ heir apparent. She puts enough pressure on herself to thrive when others heap more on top of her. Ahbe remains appreciative not just of the expertise her coaches have imparted to her, but also of their attitude along the way.
“The coaches have been very patient with me,” she says. “Being a gymnast, it was easy for me to pick up on some of the technical things. But as a gymnast, I’m also a perfectionist and I expect to be perfect. When I’m off just a bit, I can get very frustrated. I ended up peaking during the season last year because the coaches were so patient with me.”
Ahbe places Kayes in that same group. They forged a friendship through soccer that continues to this day. Kayes, who now competes at the University of Akron, still imparts her wisdom about pole vaulting to her protégé.
The gymnastics career, however, is over. Ahbe recently quit the sport in which she has excelled since her pre-school years to concentrate on pole vaulting. She realizes that one false move and any vault can be ruined. It requires repetition and sharp concentration to gain consistency.
“First of all, you have to have a fast run on the runway and a lot of upper body strength,” she explains. “I’m already pretty strong upper-body wise from gymnastics.
“It’s almost as if pole vaulting is a separate sport and that we have our own family because it is so different from the other events. But you can never doubt yourself. Now I have the belief that I can do it. At the beginning of last season, I was like, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this.’ But now I know I can.”
The same holds true in every aspect of Ahbe’s life. She is a brilliant student whose greatest challenge off the track these days is advance placement chemistry. She writes for the school newspaper and is considering a career in the medical field. Ahbe finds it difficult to dismiss those who bring negativity into her life, but that belief in herself outweighs the words of any of her critics academically and athletically.
“Right now I’m just trying to get back to where I was after last season,” she says. “I want to consistently reach the same heights and try to block out people who say I can’t do it again.”
It won’t be easy, greatly because Ahbe has only recently recovered from surgery to repair a ruptured appendix. But pole vaulting has become a passion and she is already receiving letters of interest from Division I schools.
After all, Ahbe transformed herself from a novice into a champion in one year. One can only imagine the heights she will soar by the time she’s taking off on college track runways.