High School Standouts: Science Hill’s Thompson learns perseverance in pole vault | WJHL

High School Standouts: Science Hill’s Thompson learns perseverance in pole vault | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Science Hill senior Kaia Thompson grew up going to her older siblings’ track and field meets. But, usually, her focus was on something other than her brother and sister.

“I never watched her or my brother,” she said. “I only saw the pole vaulters and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”

Still, she didn’t pick up a pole until her freshman year. She played other sports to try and fill the void before high school – including basketball.

She really liked soccer, but learned what it meant to love a sport when she reached ninth grade.

“Whenever I went to track, I was like ‘I legitimately want to be here every single day to practice,’” she explained.

At first glance, pole vaulting looked easy. How hard could it be to run down a stretch of track and jump with a stick?

“It’s going to be perfect,” she recalled thinking, “and then it wasn’t perfect. So I shut down a lot when I first started.”

But, her dad wouldn’t let her quit – constantly motivating and reminding her of the progress she’d made.

“He would show me the recordings he would take of me saying that I couldn’t do it,” she shared. “He would be like ‘You remember when you couldn’t clear six feet? And now what are your clearing – eight [feet].’”

She cherishes that support from not only her parents, but the whole track and field squad.

“Even though track is an individual sport – there is such a big team support,” she said.

It’s a support she remembers most when she recalls the first time she ever cleared ten feet in a meet.

“Not only could I hear my parents screaming on the sidelines, but it was my team – it was other teams,” she said.

She will continue pushing her pole vaulting boundaries next year at Lees-McRae College – because the thought of hanging up the sport after high school drove her to tears.

“I actually cried because I was like I love doing this so much that I don’t want to lose it,” she said.

In her free time, Thompson volunteers at the Genesis Animal Sanctuary, helping to rehabilitate animals that can be released back into the wild.

She also expresses herself through a competitive acting class at Science Hill called “Showstoppers”. It’s been a perfect fit for someone who describes herself as dramatic.

“It’s a class where I can be like that – other than home – an people not look at me like I’m crazy,” she laughed.

As a sophomore, she took home second place at the Tennessee Drama League state championship in poetry. Then, as a junior, she claimed a state championship in dramatic interpretation.

It was a fulfilling experience, rivaled only by the people she’s met along the way.

“Most of the time I’m talking to people with my team – I’m talking to people from Mo[rristown] West,” she said. “It’s great lifelong friendships that you will gain at these tournaments from other schools.”

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