Track and field not exactly the type of place you expect to find a future star. Yet that is exactly where we find a young lady in Beaufort. Only a sophomore but already setting records and on the fast track to go as high as she'd like to. It's the wrong sport to use the term "The Natural" but there is no question that is what Jackie Barnes is.
"It's a tough sport, but it is definitely worth it. It's a great time." she says.
Jackie isn't a runner, she isn't a tennis player, not even a golfer. She's a pole vaulter. Only a sophomore in high school, she is one of the best in the country. "I would put her among the top in the nation so far as a rising competitor." According to her track coach Herbert Glaze. "I believe she is doing a stupendous job each meet. She's seeing progress more and more." he adds.
It doesn't take long either to see how much Jackie enjoys the sport. "The whole thing being in the air. I did gymnastics for over ten years so I was used to it." "It's just a rush every single time you go. Even if its terrible. It's just fun." she says.
The story has all makings of legend. A former gymnast hurts her ankle so they go in search another sport. One of her coaches knew of her background in gymnastics and thought she'd be a fit for pole vault. "She was involved in gymnastics, so I know that was a key and more or less be a contributing factor to her success. That's why we went after her. She tried it and liked it. Now she loves it." says Glaze, who has seen all kinds of athletes in his 40 plus years as a county in the Low Country.
The skill and the talent are clearly there so much so that her parents are driving her to Columbia for specialized practice at the Shealy Pole Vault Camp. It's the type of camp that is aimed at perfecting and fine tuning an already technical sport. Still, that's a 2 hour plus drive and Jackie rides along with her parents twice a week every week. "When you're really tired and just wanna be home sleeping," she says "it feels like forever. But when you finally get home and sleep like a baby. It's always worth it. Every time."
So far, it's paying off a couple of weeks ago in Jacksonville, Jackie broke a national record of 12 feet by a full 9 inches. It was a jump that made her the top sophomore pole vaulter in the country and #8 overall.
The record has since been tied by a jumper in Alabama, but the foundation has been laid down. Jackie Barnes has the potential to be as great as she wants to be and she is ready to put in the work it takes to get there. Her coach sees the passion all too clearly. "All summer she worked with trainer. Tires, stairs, backwards, upstairs. She puts in the time." says Glaze. "The way she's going now I think she's probably Olympic bound. If she continues to go at the pace she's going. Success at each meet. Those potentials are there."
I would hope so," Jackie adds. "I could see it happening but I'm gonna have to continue working so hard."
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