TERRE HAUTE —
After missing on her first attempt Friday in her quest for a fourth NCAA pole vault championship, Kylie Hutson was in a position that was unfamiliar in her last two collegiate seasons.
The Indiana State senior had to battle from behind.
But as, ISU women’s coach John Gartland said Friday, Hutson thrives under pressure. She proved that again, capping one of the greatest athletic careers in the history of Sycamore athletics.
Hutson won her first NCAA title indoors in 2009, and she added the 2009 outdoor title and 2010 indoor title.
But the 2010 outdoor season was filled with adversity all the way through her victory Friday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Quad and hamstring injuries also plagued her early in the spring, limiting her workouts.
Then Hutson’s college career came dangerously close to ending at the Billy Hayes Invitational at IU on May 7. Attempting to approach a new NCAA all-time record after already moving into third all-time, Hutson’s pole snapped, creating a bloody aftermath that put defending her NCAA title in jeopardy.
Hutson suffered a laceration that went from the webbing of her left hand down to the bottom of the palm.
Hutson didn’t compete again until the NCAA preliminary round two weeks ago, but all she needed was to clear one jump to reach the NCAA Championships.
ISU’s pole vault coach, Jeff Martin, was at least a little concerned with her lack of high-caliber competition leading up to Eugene.
More adversity hit as soon as the competition opened. The Terre Haute North graduate missed on her first attempt of the evening, forcing her to come from behind.
The fourth victory will always be perceived as the most special by Martin.
“Her first title last year, the indoor title, that will always stick in our minds of being very special, but this last one, with everything she had to go through — not even knowing we’d be able to make the meet or not, and to win it the way she did, is by far the most sweet victory that she had I feel,” Martin said. “For her to be able to win it is just amazing. it doesn’t matter who was coaching her or what, it boils down to her as a competitor. She willed herself to win, and she did.”
Arkansas sophomore Tina Sutej gave Hutson one of her closest battles in the NCAA championships.
With Hutson behind, strategy was involved for Martin and Hutson. When Hutson missed at 14-5 1/4 and Sutej cleared the bar, Martin suggested Hutson pass on that height and go up to 14-7 1/4.
Hutson had two attempts to clear that height and nailed it on her first try. Sutej then passed up to 14-9, and missed both her attempts at that height, giving Hutson the title.
“The experience definitely helps being at that level. It made it a lot easier for me,” Hutson said Saturday in between flights back to Indiana.
Hutson said capping her career off with another title despite the adversity she faced made this one special.
“All of have been a little bit of a battle, but this one was the best. My last one, I wouldn’t have been happy with anything less,” Hutson said. “I got better and more relaxed each year I went.
“Four years ago I would have never thought I would win four national championships. I was just happy to be there.”
Finishing her ISU career at Oregon made for a special atmosphere she can treasure as well.
“It’s an honor to compete at Hayward Field, it’s amazing to compete in that atmosphere,” she said.
While Hutson’s college career is over, she will compete in the USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in two weeks.
“After USAs, I’ll take a couple months off,” Hutson said, “and then I’ll start getting back into weights and everything in the fall.”
The nursing student will finalize her bachelor’s degree from Indiana State with an internship at Union Hospital in the fall.
Martin said she’ll be hoping to hire an agent and could sign with a shoe company sometime soon. Martin could continue to coach her or she could opt to go another route as she’ll prepare to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team that will compete in London.
“She’ll jump in two weeks in Des Moines, we’ll have to wait and see if she’ll have an ISU uniform or if she’ll have a sponsor,” Martin said. “We met with a few agents out there after the competition. There are a few shoe companies very interested.
“She’ll be a major player in women’s pole vaulting in the United States for years to come.”