Kuksa soars to top in pole vault at GV

Zach Sepanik

In track and field, pole vaulting is an event where heights must be conquered and human flight is a common occurrence, something Grand Valley State University senior Jocelyn Kuksa has strived to perfect.

“She has learned the vault from freshman year until now,” said Lou Andreadis, women’s track and field assistant coach and head pole vault coach. “She understands the technique and along with that she has gotten stronger and faster. When you add that, it is the part you are looking for to be a successful vaulter.”

With a personal record jump of 3.95 meters at the 2011 GLIAC Indoor Championships, Kuksa has become a key contributor to the team. Even with her current success, there was a time where pole vaulting really didn’t get much of her attention.

“I actually didn’t like pole vault as much in high school as I do now because I did 300-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles and the 4×400-meter relay, which I enjoyed a lot more at the time,” Kuksa said. “I started getting recruited for pole vaulting and thought I should take it more seriously. Ever since I have been here I would probably hate to have to run again.”

However, even as a Laker, pole vault hasn’t always been Kuksa’s lone focus when it comes to track and field. She holds the GVSU women’s indoor track and field record in the pentathlon with a score of 3,218, which she set in 2009.

“I started out and didn’t know if I wanted to just do pole vault or if I wanted to do other events as well,” Kuksa said. “After my first year, I saw the success I had with it and it made me focus more. Once I started seeing the success I had within the event, that made me more motivated to work harder and specialize in pole vaulting.”

Kuksa is a three-time All-American in both indoor and outdoor track and field and has competed at the National Championships for both since her freshman year. A third place finish in the 2011 Indoor Championships marks her best finish.

“We came in as freshman with a big group of recruits for pole vault,” said fellow senior pole-vaulter Travis Fisher. “By our senior year, it is just me and her. She has improved a lot and her technique has improved dramatically. She has the potential to jump a lot higher this year. “

Not only has Kuksa grown as an athlete in her four years at GVSU, but she has also matured as a person, evident to those close to her.

“Of the 90 women, she is one of our three leaders both on and off the track from working out to academics to success on the track,” Andreadis said. “She has risen to the top of our women’s team as an overall leader.”

While the success has always been there, Kuksa remains hungry for more in her final hurrah as a member of GVSU track and field.

“I have provisionally qualified for the National Championships already so that is a weight off my back,” Kuksa said. “I want to vault my last year the proper way because technique is the hardest part. Placing at Nationals and setting a new personal record in my last year are the two expectations I have.”

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