If you’re ever fortunate enough to travel waaay down to southeast Louisiana, deep into Cajun Country, you’ll find one of the most beautiful places on the entire planet to pole vault.
Nestled under mossy trees, about 45 miles north of New Orleans and 45 miles east of Baton Rouge, lies the awesome training facility of Bartolina Athletics. Here boys and girls of all ages and abilities can be found on the runway, day and night, launching themselves to greater and greater heights.
The vaulters at Bartolina Athletics are taking the same flight path as their coach, Erica, who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Her love and knowledge of the event motivates them to achieve their goals and learn positive life lessons along the way.
And, her athletes are also following the same trajectory as the fictional heroine Maggie Steele in Maggie Vaults Over the Moon.
The new teen sports novel by Grant Overstake has been widely endorsed by pole-vaulters for its realistic depiction of the world’s greatest sport; and by others who identify with the heroine’s courageous struggle. Kirkus Reviews calls Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, “A fine novel about perseverance in sports and in life.”
Along with sharing her own remarkable story, Coach Bartolina recently used the book’s heroine to help inspire her vaulters. Both Bartolina, in real life, and Steele, as a fictional character, overcame great adversity as they vaulted themselves over the moon.
“The positive influence this book can have on young athletes is invaluable,” Bartolina says. “I am thrilled to have my athletes read it and be energized by the positive message: Stay driven and never give up!”
“I really connected to the message and character in the book,” Bartolina adds. “There were similarities between us that I enjoyed, and it brought back many happy high school memories. I had adversity I had to overcome in my life in order to be an athlete. I was blind in one eye, and the lack of depth perception made all sports difficult, but I loved vaulting!”
Erica grew up on a sheep farm in Corvallis, Oregon. She lost her eyesight as a baby in a car accident, when a pair of scissors swiped across the dashboard during the collision, causing the injury and limiting her depth perception for life.
Despite being completely blind in one eye, Bartolina did not stop her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. She started her athletic career as a cross-country runner at age fourteen, until she was advised by her high school track coach Dennis Phillips to try out for pole vault.
Bartolina developed into one of the top pole vaulters in the state, and earned a scholarship at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where she won two Big 12 Conference titles. She held the distinction of being the school’s first female pole vaulter and the school record holder for 10 years.
She improved her marks in pole vault, when she finished ninth at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004, and fourth at the U.S. Indoor Championships in 2005. Shortly after the championships, Bartolina suffered a severe back injury from training, and it hindered her ability to compete in the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
The 2007 season saw her back in form, where she cleared over 14 feet in 12 competitions. In 2008, she competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, where she successfully cleared a height and set a personal best of 14’11″ (4.55 meters). Finishing third at the trials and reaching an A-standard height of 4.45 meters, Bartolina automatically qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Through hard work and persistence, Erica Bartolina was able to accomplish more than than she ever dreamed. She sees same traits in the gusty heroine from Grain Valley, Kan.
“The same determination Maggie shows in the book is what helped me achieve in vaulting all throughout my career,” she says. “My mother had a quote on the refrigerator while I was growing up: ‘Shoot for the Moon, if you miss it, you are still among the Stars!’ and I lived by this.”
Since retiring from competing in 2010, Bartolina has inspired and coached many high school pole vaulters to higher heights, through consistent training, clinics, and overnight pole vault camps.
Included among her outstanding vaulters are 16 year-old Devin King, whose 17’1 vault leads the nation this season; Cameron Robichaux (16 feet), and Madison Heath (12 feet). Soon you’ll be seeing even more Bartolina vaulters following Erica and Maggie, over the moon!
Contact Bartolina Athletics
- (985) 687-4354
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/BartoAthletics
About the Coach
- Erica Bartolina
- 2008 USA Pole Vault Olympian
- NCAA Qualifier
- Over 18 years of Vaulting experience