By Jim Levesque
The Facts

Published July 19, 2008
LAKE JACKSON - When 15-year-old Brianna Simpson springs off the ground and clears the bar up 10 feet high, she gets a feeling like none other.

“It’s just a whole lot of fun,” she says. “It’s really exhilarating, flying through the air. I love it.”

Simpson is an accomplished pole vaulter. She committed to the sport about 31?2 years ago after years of running track and competing in mostly sprint and hurdle events.

But while participating in the Amateur Athletic Union regional meet in San Antonio four years ago, Simpson watched the girls’ pole vault competition and was shocked because she didn’t know girls could pole vault. After studying the contest, she wanted to give it a try.

“I’ve done track for a while, and when I saw the pole vault, I thought it was something different and something I wanted to see if I could do,” Simpson said. “It looked like a lot of fun.”

She’s come a long way since beginning the sport. And as a home-schooled athlete, Simpson didn’t have a lot of the resources at her disposal many other high school athletes do.

At first, she learned technique with her father, former Brazosport High School track coach Brian Simpson, and made short runs at the pit with the bar set low. She started working with former national pole vaulters Marc Hearns of Lake Jackson, Bob Crites of Jones Creek and Don Arnold of Porter and improved her technique.

“I’ve had a lot of help and great coaching,” Brianna Simpson said. “I really love to do it and they teach me a lot. They give me a lot of drills. I’m supposed to run every day and pole vault every other day, but I usually pole vault every day, too, because I want to.”

During the high school track season, Brianna Simpson is allowed to compete as an individual in area meets, but she can’t vault in district or regional meets under University Interscholastic League rules. Even though she’s contending alone at the track against dozens of athletes from public schools, she still has a lot of fun.

“I have so many friends when I go to the meets that they don’t even know I’m home-schooled unless I tell them,” Brianna Simpson said. “I’m out there competing like everybody else.”

Outside of scholastic meets, Brianna Simpson also participates in AAU and USA Track and Field events with a lot of success. She recently finished second in the USA Track and Field meet at Barnett Stadium in Houston to earn a berth to the regional meet in Fort Worth.

In June, she placed first at the AAU District Meet in the intermediate girls pole vault at 9 feet, 6 inches and qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich. She also participated in the 2005 AAU Junior Olympics in New Orleans.

Brianna Simpson will miss the trip to Michigan because of the high cost but will compete again July 26 in the beach pole vault event at Quintana Park.

She takes her vaulting seriously and hopes to continue in the sport for a long time.

“I’d love to be able to go to college on a pole vaulting scholarship,” she said. “This is definitely something I’m going to keep up with. It’s great. I love doing it.”

Jim Levesque is a sports writer for The Facts. Contact him at (979) 237-0161.