At the Michigan Quad last Saturday, freshman Elizabeth Boyle came as close as you could possibly come to clearing 13 feet in the pole vault. Although she didn’t quite make it, Boyle has overcome much higher obstacles to get where she is.
Boyle was a gymnast for 11 years while growing up in Northbrook, Ill. Then one day in the summer between her freshman and sophomore years in high school, her uncle suggested she give pole-vaulting a shot.
“I fell in love with it after my first try,” Boyle said.
That fall, Boyle retired from gymnastics and joined her high school’s track and field team. There was just one problem: The women’s track team at New Trier High School (and other high schools throughout Illinois) did not have a pole vault event.
Instead of giving up on the dream, Boyle vaulted on the men’s track team during her sophomore and junior years. But she knew something was unfair about that, and she intended to do something about it.
Along with another family, the Boyles then petitioned on the basis of Title IX that pole vault be inserted into women’s track in high schools throughout Illinois. In the middle of her junior year, Boyle got a call that she would never forget. A call informing her that pole vault was going to become an event in high school women’s track in Illinois. Boyle was ecstatic.
“It was so great for all the girls in Illinois, not just me,” Boyle said. “By having girls pole vault, everyone was given a chance.”
For now, Boyle is enjoying her time at Michigan. She has great relationships with both Michigan coach James Henry and her pole vault coach David Woolley.
“They’re both great coaches,” Boyle said.
Boyle is very happy with the team as well. She loves the fact that she gets to practice with the girls, unlike many times in high school when she would be practicing on her own.
“It is so nice to have people to train with,” Boyle said.
Boyle had already set a new school and building record for the vault when she cleared 12′ 6″ on Jan. 11. Her attempt at 13 feet last Saturday was so close, only those in attendance could truly appreciate it. For some athletes, this might lead to a great deal of frustration and possibly a setback in their work ethic, but not Boyle, as she remains optimistic.
“It will happen when it’s supposed to happen,” Boyle said of hitting 13 feet.
As for the future, Boyle, like everyone in track and field, someday hopes to compete in the Olympics. But she does not like to look too far ahead. She remains focused on what she needs to accomplish every day.
“I’m taking it one step at a time,” Boyle said.
Henry believes that Boyle will be able to be successful not only in the Big Ten, but on a national level as well.