Pole–vaulting is a sport that not only requires athletes to be in peak physical form, but also have a certain mental toughness that allows them to improve upon each run. In most cases, pole–vaulters spend years perfecting their craft before fully reaching their potential at a college or professional level.
That hasn’t been the case for Ithaca College senior Katherine Pitman.
Pitman joined the Ithaca College track and field team in 2014 and has since enjoyed one of the most remarkable runs of success in the history of the program. Pitman was a gymnast for most of her life before injuries forced her to explore other options.
In her first season with the team, Pitman set a school record mark of 3.72 meters in the outdoor pole vault. A season later, Pitman broke her record twice with a mark of 4.21 meters and won a national title last year.
Now in her third season pole–vaulting, Pitman has somehow only continued to improve. Earlier this month, Pitman broke the Division III record of 4.21 meters with a mark of 4.22 meters. A week later, Pitman broke her own record again with a mark of 4.25 meters at the Empire 8 Championships at Utica College.
For reference, the Division I record is 4.71 meters, set in 2015 by Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin University. The women’s pole–vaulting Olympic record is 5.05 meters, set by Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia in 2008.
For Pitman, still a relative newcomer to the sport, to set the Division III record is quite astonishing. How many other athletes have been able to set records in a sport just three years after starting? Not many.
Athletes like Mike Evans, a wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, played one year of high school football before breaking out during his time at Texas A&M and eventually being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Joel Embiid, center for the Philadelphia 76ers, only began playing basketball at the age of 15 in Cameroon before playing one season at the University of Kansas. He was the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
It takes a special breed of competitor to start and learn a new sport, then begin to dominate within just a few years. But that’s just what Pitman has done.