BYU pole vaulter overcomes repeated injury to compete

As a young girl, BYU pole-vaulter Rachel Fisher hoped to be a collegiate gymnast. Fisher spent the next 14 years striving to excel in her passion, gymnastics.  Assisted by her coach, world champion Yevgeny Marchenko, Fisher won 85 gymnastics medals, including the multi-state Regional Jr. Olympic first place All-Around Champion for level nine.

However, Fisher came to the realization her dream as a gymnast would end as she continued to get taller, and the effort she was putting in wasn’t paying off.  Battling the height issue accompanied by a serious back injury, Fisher eventually left the mats and ventured a new route. Little did she know, this setback would pave a future for a national championship title and other prestigious awards as a pole-vaulter.

“When I decided to quit gymnastics, I needed something else to do because I was bored out of my mind,” Fisher said. “My dad had been bugging me for the longest time to try pole vaulting … I gave it a try and loved it.”

Unlike many collegiate athletes, many of whom get involved in their sport at a young age, Fisher started later in track and field.  She attempted her first vault as a junior in high school. However, it didn’t take long for her to recognize the talent she possessed.

“The high school record was 10 feet, 6 inches.” Fisher said. “After vaulting for like two weeks I jumped 10 feet, and after a month I jumped 12 feet and set the new school record. So pretty much right off the bat I knew it was my thing and that I could be pretty good at it.”

In her senior year of high school, she won all 17 pole vault meets she competed in. She also earned the top spot in the nation for pole-vault with a jump of 13 feet, 3 inches.

However, due to a stress fracture in her foot, Fisher was unable to finish the spring season and was on crutches for the following six weeks.

Want+ing to compete one last time before college, Fisher worked back into competition-level shape through weight-training to prepare for the last opportunity of competition, the AAU Jr. Olympic Nationals. After only one practice with a full-run approach a few days before the meet, Fisher pulled off a first place win at the AAU Jr. Olympic Nationals for a second time.

Receiving a scholarship as a freshman to jump for BYU, Fisher began her new season by setting a BYU record at the MWC Indoor Championships, clearing 4.25m, qualifying her for the NCAA National Championships. She became the second highest-ranking freshman girl  in pole-vault in the NCAA for the 2012 Indoor Season.

However, Fisher could not finish competing in the outdoor season her freshman year because a stress fracture developed in her foot again, placing her on crutches for the second time.

Despite her injuries, she proved her abilities again the following 2011 indoor season by becoming the MWC Champion and eventually broke her own BYU track record with a vault of 4.26m.

Unfortunately, after tremendous improvement and success, she has been unable to compete since last indoor season because of surgery on both feet as a result of her reoccurring stress fractures.

“It has been hard, but it is almost sad to say that I am used to it because it happens every year,” Fisher said.

Her mother, Jenny Fisher, who has been a support to her daughter throughout her pole vaulting endeavors, is impressed with her daughter’s self-motivation and drive to continue to compete despite the heartache of injury.

“She has always been a very focused perfectionist,” Jenny Fisher said, “but her injury setbacks have helped her develop more patience and fortitude.  No matter how her future track season will turn out, these important qualities will help her throughout her life, not just with pole vaulting.”

After recovering from surgery, Fisher has been red-shirting the past year, hoping to be able to be fresh for competition this upcoming outdoor season.

Her mother attributes not only her inner desire but her faith as a reason for her success.

“She [Rachel] refused to compete on Sunday,” Jenny Fisher said. “She held firm with that.”

Despite the pressure from both peers and coaches, especially during her success in gymnastics, Fisher declined opportunities to compete in prestigious competitions, such as Junior Olympics, because the competition was on Sunday.

“I’m very proud of her consistent persistence to succeed at her goals and overcome her trials,” Jenny Fisher said. “But I most admire how strong her faith and standards are, and that she’s always genuinely excited for other people’s successes as much as her own.”

With unyielding motivation and optimism for the upcoming season, she has trained the past year to improve her prestigious marks.

“We’ve red-shirted her a whole year now,” women’s head coach Patrick Shane said. “Now she is ready to begin in outdoors. She is a tremendous athlete.”

With a year of recovery under her belt, Fisher looks forward to the rest of the outdoor season.

“It’s a fresh new start,” Fisher said. “There is nothing wrong coming back, being a different person and a different vaulter, trying things out differently. It has given me some more time to change some things in my technique.”

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