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Little Steps, Big Results

Inspiration comes from many sources, in many ways. You have to be open to the message, then act upon it. Picture yourself in the bleachers at a track and field meet and you will learn what drives Olivia Lueking, a Sooner pole vaulter from Clear Lake, Texas.

Olivia began gymnastics when she was 4. After 10 years, she was ready to try something new. She started running cross country to stay in shape. When the coach suggested she try track and field, she liked the idea but had no idea where to start. Enter Mom, who suggested she try pole vault—and the rest has been history making.

“A lot of pole vaulters are former gymnasts. There are similarities but I didn’t know that when my mother made the suggestion. Honestly, I had to think about it,” Olivia said.

“The biggest thing is that both sports require the ability to be air aware, to know how to move your body. I did not like pole vault at first—it involved too many things.

“You have to sprint down the runway (she’s on a 100-foot one now). You have to build up your speed while you are carrying a pole, or in my case at first dragging it. You have to perfect the timing for the moment you plant the pole in the box, then you fly into the air toward the bar. You rotate as you clear the bar, then you fall backwards into the pit. Each of those things is a small part of what has to come together for the jump to be good. You know it is a good jump as you let go of the pole and make your descent facing away from it.

“Your upper body strength works with your core. You have to be able to power yourself down the runway and you have to keep everything moving in unison. It really helps to have older teammates there to reassure you. And it helps that the big pit is waiting.”

Remember being open to the message. Look at the results, and you realize Olivia has mastered that.

Olivia won the indoor and outdoor Big 12 titles as a freshman and added the 2023 outdoor crown. She owns the indoor (14-7.5) and outdoor school records (14-9). She has won 17 individual titles in two years. She was named 2022 USTFCCCA Midwest Region Field Athlete of the Year and has earned All-America honors three times to date. She was the unanimous choice as the 2022 Big 12 Female Freshman Athlete of the Year.

“It is important to succeed in the little steps,” Olivia says. “I appreciate the little steps. I didn’t come to OU to win titles or honors. For me, it’s about being a better vaulter. It’s about clearing one height at a time because each successful vault leads to the next height and that will lead to a big result for me.”

Her most recent competition was the qualifier for the NCAA Championship. There were 12 vaulters, including two Sooners, tied for the final three qualifying spots. That led to a jump off, Olivia’s first, and she earned a qualifying spot. Olivia’s OU teammate did not. The difference between first and 12th was less than 4 inches.

“It was weird. We were cheering for each other. I had to look at it as clearing the height to get to the next bar.”

“I have to thank God for gifting me with this talent. Our coaches are amazing. It is a selfless job for Coach Jerel Langley, my event coach, Head Coach Tim Langford and the rest of the staff. I am blessed to be at OU, where we are provided all the opportunities to succeed. They invest everything they can in each of us. It does take a village.”

Especially when you are creating inspiration for life.

  • Robert Wallingford Photography
  • Justin Kaplan Photograpy