Sandi Morris in the pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018
World and Olympic pole vault silver medallist Sandi Morris is among the global elite in her speciality. The American athlete focuses on the ups and downs of college life for her high and low moments.
“In 2010 I landed the national high school pole vault title and started a college scholarship at the University of North Carolina. I enjoyed a successful freshman year while off the track I studied a major in biology. Yet under the weight of trying to balance academics with track, I quickly crumbled. In my sophomore year, I switched my major to exercise and sports science but not sure what I wanted to study led to a regression in my grades and I felt I was digging myself into a hole academically. Over time that negativity was spiralling out of control. I lacked self-confidence and this started to hamper my pole vault performances.
“I had no-heighted at several meetings that year and I was at the conference championships in 2012 when I recall becoming nervous and afraid of no-heighting. I was shaking like a leaf attempting a bar. At that point I didn’t know who I was anymore. I’d never experienced anything like it. I recall missing that opening bar, walking over to my parents and asking them I needed a transfer to another college. I needed a fresh start.
“All I wanted to do was cry. I left the track, made my way over to the adjacent baseball stadium and cried. That is when a man walked by, whom I’d never met before, to ask if he could pray for me. He sat next to me, took my hand and prayed for me to find a solution for my soul and for God to guide me.”
“Out of this low moment I was lucky. My old high school coach had a connection with the pole vault coach at the University of Arkansas, Bryan Compton, who suggested I transfer. Simultaneously, I also found a course in broadcast journalism that I really wanted to do. While studying at North Carolina, a room-mate had studied cinematography. I had helped her a little with the shooting and editing video and as an artistic person I found I really enjoyed it. So, when I was with the academic advisor I asked if they were any courses to do with cinematography. She said no, but would I be interested in broadcast journalism? I took up the offer.
“I really enjoyed the behind the camera work. I grew comfortable with it and found I was good at it. On the track, I was working with a new coach which gave me a new perspective – which was new, different and exciting. All my stars aligned. The pieces in the puzzle had come together. My confidence grew on the track and I found myself excelling in the classroom. My spirits lifted – I was studying the right major and enjoying my time on the track.
“For me, the high point came in my final year of college eligibility in 2015. For some time, I’d been seeking a national collegiate title. I’d been capable the previous year but I’d let nerves get the better of me and I finished fourth. At indoor nationals in 2015 to win (with 4.60m) in front of home crowd at Fayetteville (the home of the University of Arkansas) was one of the most memorable and triumphant moments of my career. It meant so much to me that the transfer had worked out.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF