TERRE HAUTE —
Lots of people fear being upside-down. Such fright makes rollercoasters popular.
Kylie Hutson has never suffered that phobia.
“She’s always had a little bit of a daredevil in her,” said her dad, Kevin Hutson. “Anytime she had an opportunity to get upside-down, she’d do it.”
In fact, some of Kylie’s finest moments have come while inverted.
As a kid growing up in Terre Haute, it happened while climbing trees with her brother, Max. In a more formal capacity, Kylie frequently flipped as a competitive youth gymnast and tumbler, as well as in dance recitals.
And then there was last Sunday.
Toting a 12-foot pole made of a composite of carbon fiber and fiberglass, Kylie sprinted down a runway in a stadium at the University of Oregon, wedged the pole into a small, V-shaped “plant box,” bent the pole, and flung her slender, 5-foot, 5-inch body upward — feet first — toward a crossbar at an elevation nearly three times her height. She twisted over like a corkscrew at the peak, let go of the pole and smoothly cleared the bar, falling triumphantly into a cushy pad below.
Kylie soared 15 feet, 3 inches. That upside-down moment proved to be the winning women’s pole vault at the 2011 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. It gave her the title of “national champion.” No asterisk is necessary. No sub-category to account for age level or experience applies. Kylie Hutson is America’s top female pole vaulter, period. And, while such honors can be fleeting in sports, she’s enjoying it.
She’s 23 years old, a professional athlete and the best in the United States.
“Even though this is my job, I’m having fun,” Kylie said Tuesday.
She spoke by cellphone, still hundreds of miles from her hometown. Though Terre Haute is never far from her thoughts, Kylie’s travel schedule just got a whole lot busier after Sunday’s performance in Oregon. She already began living and training at Phoenix in January, after graduating from Indiana State University, where Kylie won four straight NCAA pole vault titles. She’s got a contract with Nike, and the maker of her poles, Gill Athletics of Champaign, Ill. Thanks to last weekend’s effort, she’ll journey in August to Daegu, South Korea, as a member of Team USA for the 2011 World Championships. In between, she’ll globetrot a bit more, participating in Samsung Diamond League meets for pro track athletes in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
There’s a pretty big event next year in England, too. The 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Yes, a berth in the Olympic games is a real possibility. At Eugene, Kylie out-vaulted American pole vault icon Jenn Suhr by 2 inches. While Suhr, who placed second, had been injured and was competing outdoors for the first time this year, Kylie’s win was significant. Suhr, 29, was the five-time defending national champ, the reigning silver medalist from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the U.S. record holder.
“I realized, I can compete with this girl. She’s not out of my league,” Kylie said of Suhr.
Kylie and Suhr will meet again. To make the U.S. Olympic team and earn a spot in the 2012 games, Kylie must place among the top three pole vaulters at next June’s Olympic Trials at, again, Eugene. “I have no doubt that, if she’s on that day [in the Olympic Trials], she’ll be there [in the London Summer Olympics],” said her mom, Susan Hutson.
If so, folks in Terre Haute will face a crash-course in pronouncing exotic names such as legendary pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva (of Russia) and top-ranked Fabiana Murer (of Brazil) as Kylie takes on the world. Isinbayeva won the last two Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008, and the past five World Championship titles. She has her own website and graces ads for Toshiba and Lady Speed Stick. Any Olympic newcomer hoping for a medal in London must, first, plan on contending with Isinbayeva.
“She’s always the one to beat,” Kylie said. “But she never gets beat.”
Then again, there’s a first time for everything. Kylie became the first female to win Vigo County’s prestigious McMillan Award twice while at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, where she learned to pole vault under Coach Mike Dason. Her dominance at ISU was groundbreaking, too. And, as a pro last weekend at Oregon, Kylie ended Suhr’s string of five straight national titles, and Suhr is one of only a handful of female pole vaulters ever to clear 16 feet. Isinbayeva is also on that lofty list.
That elite plateau is reachable, Kylie thinks. “Someday, yes, I do believe I can,” she said. “It might take a little while, but in the pole vaulting world, the more experience you have the better you get.”
Then, borrowing an old but apt cliché, she said, “I guess the sky is the limit.”
And Kylie will feel right at home as she shoots for it, upside-down.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Lots of people fear being upside-down. Such fright makes rollercoasters popular.
- News Columns
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Inept amid partisan fury
Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous.
MARK BENNETT: Giving new voice to Ehrmann’s words
Max Ehrmann’s bronze face may break into a grin soon.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Lake Michigan’s ‘Wonderful World of Color’
Despite the beauty around us, Joanie and I thought of television as we sat on a gorgeous Michigan beach one evening last week.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Expiring term heightens the urgency of one lawmaker’s push for reform
State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.
The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying in-state tuition to attend state colleges and universities.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Road to funding Indiana highways jammed
If you’ve driven on either of Indiana’s two busiest interstates recently, you’ll understand why a blue-ribbon commission last week called for adding traffic lanes to those harrowing highways.
MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers
We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Wet in Wyoming, wandering turtles and other tales of the road
It is an odd thing, after all the miles I drove a few weeks ago — to the mountains of Wyoming and back again — that today I remember most of all stopping along the road in two places nearly 600 miles apart.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Financial hardships mount for military families
Days before the July 4th holiday, Holly Petraeus stood on the steps of the imposing Indiana War Memorial, in front of a bank of cameras, and made a plea to military families: Don’t let pride stand in the way of asking for help.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Tangled road to simplified tax code
Pushing his idea that a simpler tax system can boost Indiana’s economy, Gov. Mike Pence invited prominent conservative economists to a closed-to-the-public conference last week.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Homegrown spirits return to State Fair
Mark Webb is counting on patrons of the Indiana State Fair to be better behaved this summer than they were in 1946, when a celebratory post-war crowd almost trashed the place.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Coauthor of election laws may have to worry about own race
Connie Lawson had a speech ready for the state Republican party delegates who picked her as their Secretary of State candidate, putting her at the top of an all-female ticket in November.
MAX JONES: Fathers, sons and the tides of war
The wonderful and poignant stories and tributes the past week about D-Day have been both heartbreaking and uplifting.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute: The downtown that can
Two words can refute many of the “can’ts” occasionally uttered about this town.
MIKE LUNSFORD: It’s the true ‘face of spring’
I’d be a liar if I said that I miss the yellow carpet of dandelions that dotted my front yard just a few weeks ago.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Gregg weighs another shot at gov’s office
John Gregg made his handlebar mustache an iconic image in his failed 2012 race for governor, turning it into a campaign logo and telling tales of how he stuck to his Yosemite Sam guns when advisers pressed him to shave it.
MARK BENNETT: Returning the dome to Normal
Folks at Indiana State University haven’t summoned Indiana Jones, yet.
MARK BENNETT: Midwest baseball fans flock to Valley tourney
As a major sporting event — the Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Championship — began to unfold in Terre Haute this week, a familiar question cropped up.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Summer study groups do the Legislature’s legwork
Back before the recession of 2008 hit Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels launched an ambitious initiative called Hoosiers on the Move.
MIKE LUNSFORD: A face only a mother could love
It is fitting that Mother’s Day comes when it does, for spring is a maternal season, one for new beginnings, for birth and rebirth, for flowering and nurturing and caring.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Struggling schools look for funding relief
Ball State University economist Michael Hicks had some unwelcome news when he met with leaders of the scenic Ohio River town of Madison last summer, after they asked his advice on growing their community.
ALICIA MORGAN: Today, let’s celebrate the rewards
Mother’s Day is not about mothers at all.
B.J. RILEY: Tooth Fairy’s real; I’ve seen her
As strange as it might sound, I think of the tooth fairy each Mother’s Day.
MARK BENNETT: Like other Indiana counties, Vigo struggles with voter apathy
Vigo Countians who trekked to the new voting centers, who endured long lines at a couple of popular sites, and who learned to use the new touch-screen machines displayed solid civic spirit in Tuesday’s primary election.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Public higher education graduation rates leave much to be desired
On the sprawling urban campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Zebulun Davenport has one of the more difficult jobs.
MARK BENNETT: Low, and OK with it
The little sticker in the upper-left corner of a vehicle’s windshield reminds us — three months in advance — when to get an oil change.
A safe, scenic path from downtown Terre Haute to the river worth planning
The community has to want it.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Lasting beauty: Miss Kinsey’s forsythia
It always seems like it’s Sunday when we notice Miss Kinsey’s forsythia. Joanie and I will be driving home from church, most often with our windows down so we can enjoy springtime breezes and smells.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Governor beyond the office, script
On a shelf in the home office of Gov. Mike Pence are some cowboy spurs and an old pair of riding boots — signs of how the first-term executive and his family relax in their spare time.
MARK BENNETT: The memories from a baseball mitt fit like a glove
Man hasn’t developed the technology for time travel.
The smell of your old baseball glove can come pretty close, though.
Answering the call
Static was the only thing on TV or radio. People were on their knees as they prayed. It was, as if for three whole days, the world stood still.
- More News Columns Headlines
- STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Inept amid partisan fury