If two girls from Easton ever challenge you to a multi-event contest that begins with ten random SAT questions, the balance beam, and a cheerleading routine; then ends with a 5K race and "a friendly competition" in the pole vault, DON'T DO IT! It's a set-up!
(Lindsay, left and Courtney, right, running for Easton during the 2002 XC season)
Meet two sisters who not only take AP/Honors classes, serve on student government, run cross country and track, and compete as cheerleaders – they also happen to be among the country's elite in the Pole Vault.
From one vault to the next.
First things first. Easton High School sisters Courtney and Lindsay Regan are not twins. "We get that a lot" says Courtney, the shorter of the two and the one with dark hair. She's the oldest and is entering her senior year. Lindsay, the taller blonde that most mistake as the older sister, will be a sophomore. But it is understandable that many who see the girls competing and spending time together make the assumption they're twins. The two seem inseparable. Since they were little, they have led virtually identical lives, including this past outdoor season when they each won a state championship, each won an AAU National title, and more importantly, each cleared 12' – a mark that clearly puts them among the nation's elite female high school vaulters. (Both are within the top 39 according to the August 21, 2003 Dyestat Elite Rankings.)
But it's a long way from mimicking their older sister Kate's gymnastic flips, to clearing 12' in the Pole Vault. And that's probably the best place to begin this story of sibling rivalry gone incredibly right.
Once again, track & field benefits from other sports. Not everyone who plays soccer, excels. That brought Julia Pudlin to distance running. And not everyone who becomes serious about gymnastics, stays healthy. And health is the reason both Courtney and Lindsay site as the main motivation for looking for another sport.
Their older sister (and only other sibling), did gymnastics. She would come home in the evening and practice flips. Courtney and Lindsay would do the same. According to Courtney, the problem was parental. "My mom told us we couldn't just be flipping around without knowing how to do it." So they started with a low-key program. When that group had a major change in staff, they switched to the Parkettes, an elite gymnastics group out of Allentown. "It's a pretty demanding program," continued Courtney. "We trained for five or six days a week, four hours a night. And it was too much… on our bodies and mentally. We literally had no lives."
But it wasn't the lifestyle that drove the girls from the sport. It was the injuries. Courtney's elbow deteriorated, so she was forced to quit. Kate, who also happened to be a member of the Easton track team at the time, convinced her sister to join the team. That was the easy part. But Kate was apparently full of good ideas for Courtney. "She told me I should probably try the pole vault because Easton didn't have any vaulters, and it's an easier transition from gymnastics to vaulting, because you do a lot of the same things, the take-off, and swinging." Courtney couldn't refute the logic, so she started late in the indoor season of her freshman year.
Courtney credits her high school coach, John Kerbaugh, with getting her started safely. "He knew enough to give me the basics. The really impressive thing is, he is the one who gave me the flyer on one-day clinics by Vertical Assault, where Lindsay and I have trained ever since. He even came with me to learn more." During the spring of her freshman year, Courtney cleared 10-6. That summer she went to the Vertical Assault summer camp, and was accompanied by Lindsay.
Lindsay had had her own injury problems as a result of gymnastics. She suffered from hairline fractures in both knees and was unable to continue. Pole-vaulting made sense to her, as well. (This spring, she did have to decide between pole vaulting and softball. "It was a tough choice, but now everyone thinks it was the right decision.")
2003, and a ton of firsts.
This is one of those occasions when you might think that a little sibling rivalry would enter the picture. Not so with these sisters. But that doesn't mean it was, or continues to be easy. Lindsay is sure Courtney felt like she was invading her territory. But Courtney said she knew right away she'd have to just deal with it. "I couldn't not let her do it. Plus, my parents wouldn't have let me say no."
The two are each other's biggest supporters. In fact, they believe they have a nice advantage at competitions with each other on the sidelines, pushing for the other to succeed. And helping with advice and support. Both agree that their dream competition would be for both to PR. They would have a jump-off with one winning, but they'd both be happy because each had reached their best heights. So far that hasn't happened.
What has happened is little sister Lindsay became the first one to win a state championship. It was this year's PTFCA Indoor meet at Penn State. Courtney was off her game. Lindsay was surviving from height to height as other competitors faded away. She would eventually pull out the title, clearing 11-3. It wasn't her best jump of her freshman indoor campaign (11-6 at the PTFCA Indoor Carnival), but it was satisfying. It was an eye-opening experience for Courtney, because for the first time she had to deal with the fact that her younger sister was going to beat her in an important meet. "I told myself to just get over it and be happy for her. You don't have a choice." It was made even tougher by the fact that Courtney hadn't yet matched the 11-9 PR she had set as a sophomore in outdoor.
But she moved on. To bigger and better things.
(Courtney cleared 11'03.75 to geet 3rd at the Penn Relays)
While Lindsay had been the first to win a state championship, Courtney became the first to clear the magical height of 12-0. And with it, she won her first state championship. The two girls hoped to be competing outside in front of the crowd at Shippensburg's Seth Grove Stadium, but the rain forced PIAA officials to move the AAA Girls' Pole Vault indoors, which generally makes it tougher to go higher. But according to Courtney, it wasn't that big an adjustment because they usually practice indoors at Moravian. "My grandparents went out the day before and got us flats, just in case it rained. And it poured."
Courtney finally got the 11-9 monkey off her back on the third attempt late in the competition. "That was actually more exciting for me, because I knew then that I had won a state championship. The pressure was off, so I just told myself it was just 12-0 and I could do this." She also credits the officials working the event with helping her to relax. She made her big PR on her second attempt.
Lindsay was happy for her sister. "I have to say that I was more upset that I wasn't up there with her. It's really a win-win situation for us when we compete. We just push each other." Lindsay used her sister's PR as motivation, saying to herself, "OK, now I have to do this too."
But Lindsay hit a slump of sorts. She had only cleared 11-0 at States. That followed a great duel with her sister at the District 11 Championships the week before States. "We kept going back and forth and we got up to 12-0 and I thought that was the day we were going to make it." Courtney got the District title on the jump-off. Both cleared 11-6.
Two seasons completed. Two state titles. But they weren't done. The adidas Outdoor Championships and AAU beckoned. Courtney cleared 12-00.50 to get 5th at adidas. Lindsay continued with her mini-slump, tying for 15th with an 11-00.75 effort. It was on to the AAU Junior Olympic Championships outside Detroit, Michigan. Courtney had two 12-footers on her resume. Lindsay had been struggling since going 11-6 and 11-8 after beginning her spring season late because of a back injury.
(Lindsay just after her record-setting AAU vault.)
AAU's would be different. Again, both girls achieved firsts. Courtney won the Young Women's national championship with an 11-06 effort. And Lindsay won her national championship, as well, taking the Intermediate Girls' classification and joining her sister in the 12-foot club. But Lindsay also accomplished something else, clearing 12-03.25 to set a new US Freshman Prep Record, breaking the 12-3 standard set in 1999 by high school pioneers Samantha Shepard and Molly Lederman. "On the way to the record, I cleared 12-0, and that's the one I got really excited for. And then when my coach told them to set the bar for 12-03.25, I thought it was weird. But I did it. If I had known it was for the freshman record, I would have gotten more excited." Courtney says she's the matter of fact one, not celebrating too much. But when Lindsay cleared 12' for the first time, she had to stop her videotaping "so I could jump up and down with her."
Who they look up to in the Pole Vault.
Asked for their role models in an event that is gaining participants every year, each didn't have to think for more than a second. For Courtney, it's a competitor who made a big impression on her this season. "It would have to be Jenny Green (Grand Island, Nebraska). She is the nicest vaulter I've ever met. Yeah, she's good, but sometimes talented people don't talk to people who aren't as good. But she talks to everyone. Knows everyone's name. In fact, in Reno, she was jumping in the top pit and came over to ask my PR and wish me luck."
For Lindsay, Courtney is her role model. Why? "Because she got me started. And she was good enough not to tell me I couldn't do it because she was doing it, which doesn't happen all the time with sisters."
"Gymnastics is the scary sport"
Neither Courtney nor Lindsay feel much worry when competing in the pole vault. Courtney says that when they started, "it wasn't that scary because we were used to the moves. I actually think it's more scary to do a back-flip on a four-inch beam than to pole vault." She thinks her parents may be concerned at times, but compared to gymnastics, this is nothing. "In gymnastics, I got hurt so much. I hit my head on concrete. I hit the back of my head on the beam. I cracked my elbow." Added Lindsay, "and I had hairline fractures in both knees. Now that's overuse injuries."
Both agree that coaching plays a key, if not an absolute role in reducing the risks of their sport.
Hitting the trails and sidelines for the off-season.
To keep busy between the end of outdoor and the beginning of indoor, the girls fill in with cross country and cheerleading. They cheer from August through February for football, basketball, wrestling and at a variety of competitions, including nationals. And according to Courtney, they run cross "because we love our coach, she's awesome. And I also think it helps our endurance. If I'm not having a great day jumping, and I have to go again and again, it helps. Plus the people are nice." She doesn't remember any of her 5K times. "I have them written down, but they're not good. Nothing fabulous."
Next year and beyond.
They know each other's strengths. Lindsay says Courtney has a great run and take-off. Courtney says Lindsay has a good swing in the air. They both feel they can improve in every area. "It would be nice to get to 12-6 indoor and then 13 by States or adidas," says Courtney. Lindsay just wants to do 12' consistently, "like my 11-footer now, and then 13' will come."
Courtney is looking at colleges, and with her academic record and score in the SATs, she's focusing on the Ivy League and schools of that academic caliber.
So what does big sister Kate think of all their success?
Kate is a sophomore at Cornell who ran cross and distance in track in high school. The mileage required for college proved too much with the demands of school, so Kate dropped cross and track in her freshman year. But she missed the team atmosphere.
(Lindsay and Courtney with Vertical Assault coach Mike Lawryk)
So what could she possibly do?
"The pole vault, of course," Courtney noted with pride. "She started this summer, and Mike (Lawryk - Vertical Assault) thinks she can go 10' soon. I've talked with the Cornell coach and told him that she wants to try to pole vault for them. He said to stop in and try. We just had a mock meet, and she went 8-7 after just seven lessons."
"I guess it was us that made her try it. She should be pretty good."
We gotta amend the warning: If three girls challenge you to a contest involving SAT questions, gymnastics, cheerleading, distance running and pole vaulting, DON'T DO IT!