CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BigSouthSports.com) - The Big South Conference, in conjunction with Collegiate Partner Musco Sports Lighting, continues its monthly "Musco Women's Spotlight" feature. This month's spotlight is VMI senior women's pole vaulter Jennifer Sing (Franklin, Va.).
Sing enters the 2012 Big South Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship as the top-ranked pole vaulter in the League with 12' 6" and will seek her first Big South title. The two-time Big South Indoor Track Field Athlete of the Week is the school record holder and only VMI female to clear 12 feet, having done so in 12 of her past 13 meets entering the Championship. The story below recounts Sing's introduction to pole vaulting as a walk-on, her time at VMI and her perspective entering this year's Conference Championship meet.
"Flying may not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price."
"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward."
Those two quotes were spoken by one of the great early aviatrixes, Amelia Earhart, and one cadet at VMI has experienced that price, and demonstrated that tenacity, over during her time at the Institute.
Sing came to VMI out of Franklin City High School in Franklin, Va. While in high school, Sing lettered in three sports - cross country, tennis and wrestling, and also harnessed a great deal of interest in her future career.
"I believe that all my coaches have had a great deal of influence on my athletic career," said Sing, "But for my future career, I want to be a naval aviator. That's always been something I've been interested in, even going back to the question little kids get asked, 'If you had a superpower, what would it be?', because I always said, 'the ability to fly!"."
With her career goal in mind, Sing narrowed her college choice to two, Navy and VMI. VMI won out, and Sing attended the Institute's Summer Transition Program in the summer of 2008. She did not come to VMI with the plan to participate in athletics, but it was there that she was discovered by Keydet assistant coach Zack Scott for a different sort of flying.
"I saw Jennifer during the Summer Transition Program," said VMI assistant coach Zack Scott, the Keydet recruiting coordinator. "Because of her athletic ability and overall background, I spent two weeks talking with her about what it would take to be a good vaulter. Because of her drive, athletic ability and lack of fear, she decided to give it a try, and four years later, here we are."
That fall, competing as a walk-on, Sing jumped into the ranks of the fast-rising Keydet cross country team, competing in three races, but it was her other athletic pursuit that would begin then as well. Sing jumped into the pole vault arena for the first time, taking part in four meets. The eventual school record holder would fail to post a height at two of the events, and would post a seasonal best of just 2.45 meters (8' 0 ½").
"Early on, Jen struggled with some of the technique associated with the vault," said VMI head coach Darrin Webb. "Part of the issue, however, was finding the right type of pole for her, and once that was figured out, she began to improve very quickly. Her past experience with gymnastics enabled her to pick up the swing and work off the pole very rapidly."
After improving somewhat during the following indoor season, running her personal best up to 10 feet, six inches, Sing exploded during the outdoor year. She posted a new personal best at every meet during that outdoor season, including becoming just the third VMI woman to ever clear 11 feet. That run, including an eighth-place finish at the Big South Championships for Sing's first-career Conference scoring effort, was a harbinger of things to come.
Sing posted a personal best of 11'1 ¾" early in the 2010 indoor season, but then had her first big moment at the Conference indoor meet in late February. There, she cleared 11'9 ¾", a new school record, to finish second. Sing, the previously unknown vaulter, had only lost out on a Conference title due to number of overall misses in the competition, and was now qualified for the indoor ECAC Championships.
The breakout season continued outdoors, as a meet at Liberty in early April brought a 12'1 ½" clearance. That was not only a new school record, but made Sing the first VMI woman to ever clear the 12-foot mark. Sing, who had been vaulting for just three seasons, now held both the indoor and outdoor school records in her event.
"I am extremely honored to hold the school records in the pole vault, especially because I walked on to the team with no experience in the sport," said Sing. "Hopefully, I will be able to jump consistently higher for the rest of the year, but I also hope that my record doesn't last for long, because we have such great young talent on our team."
Sing's run continued with two additional school records as she would go on to finish sixth at the ECAC Championships, becoming just the second Keydet woman to score in the pole vault at that well-known event. Sing has now cleared 12 feet in 10-straight meets, dating back to last April, and earlier this month, broke the indoor school record for the second time this season. She now looks ahead to this month's Big South Indoor Championships, her final Conference indoor meet.
"I feel as though the team is coming together well," said Sing. "Even though we've had some ups and downs, I think we're gaining momentum at the right time and both the team and myself personally will be in a good position for the Conference meet."
"Jennifer is one of those individuals who wants to be good at all she does," said Coach Webb. "She is a good student, a good pole vaulter and a good leader, but more importantly, she is an outstanding person with great character and values, which extend into all parts of her life."
With her time at VMI coming to a close in May, Sing was asked about a favorite memory from the Institute. She, surprisingly, broke into laughter before explaining, "I'm not quite sure if I can explain one so that it can be understood, but I do know that no matter where you go to school, every student-athlete can only be themselves. They can only do what they're able, and no student-athlete should try to be someone else."
In fact, future student-athletes will have few better models to look at than the future Naval Aviator from Franklin, Va., who chose to begin that rewarding process four years ago.
Written by Brad Salois of VMI's Athletic Communications office
READ THE PREVIOUS "MUSCO WOMEN'S SPOTLIGHTS"
Lisa Lubke, Radford
Jennifer Klugh, Liberty
Becca Toor, Winthrop
Lauren Garza, Campbell
Shamia Brown, High Point