Brooke Shelton was frustrated.
In switching from a familiar sport to a new one, she was having trouble getting it down. The moves, the techniques were difficult for her to master.
Once she did, though, everything changed — and she quickly grew to love it.
Now, Shelton, a senior pole vaulter at Ledford, has signed to continue her track and field career — four years after taking up the sport — at NCAA Division I school Liberty University.
“I had a goal freshman year when I started it, and I realized this is something I really could do for a while,” she says. “I set a goal and I just kept pushing for it. So, it’s really exciting to achieve something I’ve wanted for so long.”
Shelton, the daughter of Denise and Chris of Wallburg, began pole vaulting during the winter of her freshman year. After years of gymnastics, the physical wear-and-tear was getting to be too much for her.
So, she decided to go try something new. A family friend suggested she try pole vaulting because gymnasts, with their strength and body control, often do well in the sport. It was worth trying, but it didn’t go well early on.
“At first, I really didn’t like it that much, because it was really frustrating to learn how to do it,” she says. “But, they just kept telling me, ‘When you figure it out, you’ll love it. Just keep doing it.’ ...
“It’s not so much that it’s hard — it’s just frustrating. You have to do certain moves and certain techniques to get it down. So, I kept doing it, and when I figured out how to do it, I loved it.”
It took her about a month to get the hang of it. She then continued to work, practicing with coach Van Hall several times a week and working out regularly to keep making progress despite lacking much local competition.
As a freshman, she qualified for states and finished in the middle of the pack. It was a great start for her prep career, as she reached states all four years and improved each time, cracking the top 10 as a sophomore.
As a junior, she won her regional and finished third at states. Then, as a senior, she again won her regional and easily won the NCHSAA 3A state title, clearing 11 feet, 6 inches — 1 ½ feet higher than second place.
“It was really exciting,” she says. “Personally, I didn’t do that great. I jumped higher than everyone else. But, for me, I didn’t jump my best. So, I was kind of upset but at the same time excited. I’ve been wanting it for all four years.”
In searching for schools, she narrowed her choices to two: Western Carolina and Liberty. The personal connection Shelton, who jumped a personal-record 12 feet during her visit to Liberty, where she knew associate head coach Lance Bingham through Hall, finally sealed her decision.
“The atmosphere, the way the people were, just the team,” says Shelton, who wants to study communication and eventually work in television behind the camera. “I loved how the team is just a big family. I loved the atmosphere.”