story by Katrice Williams photos by Tonya Perry
After planting her pole in just the right position, Kourtney Sizemore soars through the sky as she confidently strives to make her best mark yet. The potential of this pole vaulting sensation is as endless as the sky above. Kourtney, an Effingham native, is a senior at Savannah State University (SSU). The 2014 Effingham High School graduate is a marine science major. She was awarded a track and field scholarship from SSU prior to beginning her freshman year and has been performing as a track athlete ever since. Her mom, Karmin, and dad, Richard, could not be more proud of her.
Kourtney’s athleticism stems back to middle school, where she first became interested in track and field. Actually, during 7th grade, she began long-distance running. During her freshman year of high school, along with competing in cross-country and various relays, Kourtney agreed to try the pole vault. She was determined not to be intimidated by the seemingly difficult and unique event. Kourtney persisted to run towards the challenge; she became quite good at it and fell in love with the sport over time.
“I’ve been hooked on it ever since I tried the first jump,” she insists.
SSU currently competes under the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), whose colleges are made up of notably talented and distinguished Division 1 athletes. That said, Kourtney dedicates herself to continuous training, specifically for the pole vault, in order to prepare for the indoor track conference in the fall and the outdoor conference in the spring, each being a series of competitions leading to a final championship.
“Being a Division 1 athlete, you have so much more responsibility and pressure, but you get more knowledge of what your actual sport is,” Kourtney remarks.
Interestingly enough, as only a freshman, Kourtney broke the school’s outdoor pole vault record with a vault of 3.20m. Since, she has continued to break her own records and even set a new school indoor record of 3.31m her junior year, after finishing third place at the MEAC Indoor Championship. She followed that by setting a new school pole vault record of 3.35m last spring at the SSU Eye Opener Track Meet. This past track season, Kourtney placed fifth at the MEAC Championship, after delivering an admirable and impressive performance, as she chose to perform through the healing process from a notable injury. In fact, she had a medical boot on her foot throughout the competition; however, she removed it each time she had to compete.
“It was a really tough competition; I don’t regret anything,” Kourtney comments.
She does not take for granted all the athletic mentors that have helped her become the remarkable athlete that she is today. Ted Whitaker is the SSU head track coach. Kourtney is grateful for all of his help, including the overall leadership, knowledge and skill that he brings to the program. She also has tremendous gratitude for her jumping coach, Repel Martin.
“He has really gotten me into shape. He is the one I work with on a daily basis,” Kourtney says.
Further, she is appreciative for all the efforts of her first pole vault coach, Ed Hissam, who was with her during freshman and sophomore years. She received her first real vault training as a collegiate athlete from him.
“He actually truly made me understand what pole vaulting was and the technique for it. He made me understand it better. He re-taught me everything, so I actually learned how to pole vault through him,” she recalls.
Kourtney knows that much of her growth and current skill with the vault is largely credited to the coaching of Kenneth McDaniel, her present vault coach, who has helped her develop her technique.
“When I began working with Coach Kenneth McDaniel, I got a lot better. I had more access to poles with him–full sets of the ones I needed. When it came to the indoor championship, I did ten times better than I thought I would,” Kourtney reveals.
Kourtney is extremely proud to represent the SSU Tigers and feels privileged to compete alongside such an extraordinary team. They have been there throughout her athletic growth; she knows that much of the learning and inspiration from her team has helped her to grow into a better athlete and overall leader.
“I’ve learned a lot from them; I’ve had so much fun,” she says.
In addition, Kourtney is thankful for the help of Dr. Mary Carla Curran, who has been a true mentor throughout her senior research project, titled, The Interaction of the Daggerblade Grass Shrimp Palaemonetes pugio with artificial red algae at different tidal stages. Kourtney aspires to “eventually go to graduate school to obtain a psychology degree in animal behavior.”
“That’s something I’m passionate about—the well-being of animals,” she states.
Moreover, Kourtney feels that she owes the world to two of her biggest and most selfless fans: her mom and dad. Their love, support and guidance have largely shaped her into who she is today.
“My mom was the emotional support. My dad was that stern voice telling me right from wrong. They both equally inspired me to do more with my life,” she says. Kourtney also appreciates the support given by her big sister Annsleigh and twin brother Kasey. She laughs as she mentions that Kasey feels that he is really her big brother since he is a whole one minute older.
Kourtney hopes that she is a role model for other aspiring athletes and young people, offering both sincere and inspiring words, saying, “As long as you have drive and passion, you will achieve what you could never dream of. I didn’t win all the big trophies or medals, but I did win a great work ethic, a sense of responsibility and learned how to be a team player. I found that I could do whatever I put my mind to. In the words of Colin Powell, retired US National Security Advisor, ‘There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure,”’ she states.
The future for Kourtney Sizemore is as promising and bright as the sky above her…the limitless sky, that is.
“Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from flying.”