Steve Puterski

SARA LOVEN/gtphoto@greeleytribune.comChelsea O'Connor, 17, of Windsor High School holds the school record in the pole vault at 9 feet 6 inches. O' Connor placed seventh in this year's state track meet.

As a freshman, she set the school record in the pole vault. She wouldn’t improve until she overcame her fear in the most dangerous sport in track and field.

Windsor’s Chelsea O’Connor not only overcame her fear, but put in the best performance of her short career at the Class 4A state meet this past spring. O’Connor, who held the school record at 8 feet, finished seventh at the state meet with a new school record of 91⁄2 feet.

“Last year, I really didn’t know how to improve myself,” O’Connor said. “This year, it just clicked with the purpose of my drills and helped me achieve my goals this year.”

As a freshman, O’Connor was the only girl on the team who vaulted. She had to overcome her fear of bending the pole and being able to fling herself over the bar high up from the ground.

To do that, O’Connor and her pole vaulting coach Pete Thrasher used an exercise in the pool to help overcome her fear. O’Connor spent time vaulting in a pool so she could get used to bending and being almost perpendicular to the ground.

Once she got acclimated to the feeling, O’Connor took her vaulting to new heights.

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“The fact (is) that she’s pretty fearless,” Windsor head coach Conrad Crist said. “Because in pole vault, that’s what it takes, and she’s gotten over that mental barrier and the sky’s the limit.”

O’Connor also said another reason for her struggles was she didn’t have the strength as a freshman she needed to succeed. Pole vaulting requires an athlete to use their core muscles, and also requires numerous steps, ones a vaulter can’t think about while in the middle of a run.

O’Connor lifts weights and uses a rope in the weight room to help develop her strength. She went through the motions of vaulting using the rope.

“It’s so difficult because girls our age don’t have the upper body strength or core strength,” O’Connor said. “You have to have so much core strength to get over.”

As O’Connor improved her strength, she started to see results. At the league championships, O’Connor placed fourth with a vault of 8 feet, 6 inches, which earned her all-conference honors, and a week later took second at regionals with a height of 9 feet.

At state, she had her best vault to date, and didn’t back down from the competition.

“State was a blast, I loved it,” O’Connor said. “I went in knowing that I just wanted to give it my all. I just wanted it for myself, to get better and to increase in height.”

O’Connor now spends her time with her club softball team, the Triple Crown Stars, and is preparing for the upcoming softball season for the Wizards. She was a member of the 2006 state championship team, and helped Windsor finish with a 19-3 record last season and a second-round appearance in the state tournament.

O’Connor hit .486 with two home runs and led the Wizards with 10 doubles and tied for the team lead with 29 RBI.