For The Tribune

Whether she’s clearing the bar for pole vault or running the 200- and 400-meter dashes, Mikayla Sexton spends countless hours preparing for a track and field meet.

Heading into her fourth year on Seymour’s track and field team, Sexton plans on competing in all three events.

When stepping up to the pole vault, success starts with the approach.

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“You want to take 12 steps before you get to where you take off from,” Sexton said. “To work up to 12 you have to start with four and six, but you’re not going to take vaults at that. You’re going to take your vaults at 12 steps, if not more, depending on the person.

“You need a good plant so you get a good vault. We like to say ‘you need a good plant to get high.’ It’s very much technique, and every little step it takes.”

Sexton said after planting the pole and beginning your jump, “you want to get your feet on the side, get inverted and then you’re going to turn with it and throw the pole behind you, that way the pole doesn’t hit the bar.”

She said she has cleared the bar and had the pole knock the bar off the standards, and that counts as a miss.

Sexton, who qualified for the regional last year, had her best vault at 7-foot-6.

Her goal for the upcoming season is to beat the record of 8-foot-6.

In the air, the weather conditions can force a vaulter to change their approach.

“If the wind is coming from the side we either have to run on the runway toward the right or toward the left, and sometimes the wind also can knock down the bar,” Sexton said. “So we kind of wait until the wind dies down.”

While Sexton feels comfortable with her home vault, away field events can get tricky.

“Every pit and every bar is different,” Sexton said. “Some schools have the sides of the runway built up. And on the last bit of the runway you have blockage on the side built up, and mentally that can throw you off because you’re not used to that.

Pole vaulting became a regular event for Sexton during her sophomore year.

“Mom didn’t want me to pole vault,” Sexton said. “Dad saw me vaulting at practice one day and decided it would probably be a good idea for me.”

With the season approaching, Sexton has to mentally prepare for her vaulting.

“I get nervous sometimes, but not often,” Sexton said. “The more nervous part is jumping off the right foot and not the wrong foot. That is the one thing I’ve really been struggling with this year, because I’m right and left-handed in sports. I want to go off the left foot. I need to put all the pieces together.”

The senior also will run at least one individual event and probably on a relay team.

“I’m going to run the 400 or the 200; we’ll see,” Sexton said. “I enjoy running. I like to run in Lane 3 in the 400. I’d like to run a 1:12 this year.”

Mikayla’s father, Bob, is head coach of the girls track team.

“I enjoy my father as the coach,” she said. “He’s my coach on the track and off the track. He’s always encouraging me to do great.”

Some of Sexton’s practice jumps are videotaped. Following the vaults, she and her father talk about pole vaulting at home and watch those tapes together, as well as instructional videos.

“We have an app, slow-motion, and we can go through it and see what foot I’m taking off of or where I need to speed up or what I need to work on,” Sexton said.

For Sexton, track started in middle school with encouragement from her father.

A stellar student-athlete, Sexton looks forward to finishing her time at SHS on a high-note.

“I’ve enjoyed it (at SHS),” Sexton said. “I’ve taken AP courses freshman to senior year. They’ve definitely been beneficial, especially with dual-credit classes as well.”

Off the track

Name: Mikayla Sexton

Parents: Bob and Melinda Sexton

Sibling: Isaiah

Sports: track 4 years

Favorite way jump areas: Columbus East and Madison 

Organizations: Strength Club, 4H

Plans after high school: Attend Indiana State University to study exercise science and become a strength and conditioning coach

Favorite food: Ice cream

Favorite TV show: House

Favorite musicians: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Favorite movie: Lilo and Stitch

Favorite book: “The Catcher In The Rye”

Favorite quote: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”