NASHVILLE — It was her first attempt at the pole vault, but Emily Brady knew she was going to soar.
Why not? Her brother, Brian Brady, held the Brown County High School boys record of 14 feet. Her sister, Paige, held the Eagles’ record for girls at 9-foot-6.
Topping it off, she had trained for a year as a sixth-grader, just carrying the pole around and practicing technique. As a seventh-grader, she was ready.
“My dad (Brian Brady Sr.) took a picture of my very first jump,” said Emily Brady, now a junior at Brown County High School. “I was an inch off the ground. I felt I was doing it wrong. I looked stupid.”
She wasn’t about to quit.
“Emily is the youngest of five athletic siblings,” said her mom, Kim Brady. “When she was little, her siblings would laugh at her because she was so clumsy. She’s pretty coordinated now.
“She said she would break Paige’s record. She did it her freshman year.”
Emily Brady continues to reach new heights. On April 10 in a home meet against Martinsville and Edgewood, she cleared 11 feet for the first time in a high school meet. Her goal is to soar over the 12-foot mark by the end of the season.
In March, she won the pole vault with a 10-foot jump at the Hoosier State relays, considered the indoor season state meet, at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion.
The Brady file
WHO: Emily Brady
SCHOOL: Brown County High School
SPORT: Track and field, pole vault, long jump, hurdles
PERSONAL BESTS: Pole vault, 11 feet; long jump, 15 feet, 11½ inches; 300 hurdles, 49.4; 100 hurdles, 16.00
DID YOU KNOW? Ellie McCardwell of Pendleton Heights holds the Indiana State Track Meet record of 13 feet, 6¼ inches set in 2009. Carroll’s Sara McKeeman won the event last season at 12 feet, 3 inches.
Last year, Carroll’s Sara McKeeman won the girls pole vault at the Indiana State Track and Field Meet with a 12-foot-3 effort.
In a sport where gains are measured by fractions of inches, not feet, Brady is hopeful she can continue to make huge gains. Her natural athletic talent — she also plays basketball and volleyball at Brown County — and her work in the weight room have been a huge part of her initial gains.
“Technically, you are not supposed to look at the bar,” Emily Brady said of the pole vault. “One of the biggest problems holding me back is that I do focus on it.
“You are supposed to look at your top hand (as the athlete soars over the bar), but that’s a little scary, and I get disoriented. My form obviously is not perfect.”
As she continues to improve her form, she expects to make significant gains.
A hurdler and long jumper as well, Emily Brady said developing more speed and explosiveness is key to the pole vault.
“You need speed,” she said. “Your momentum is what gets the bend in the pole. Then you have to be able to hold on to it.”
Although she is 5-foot-4, Emily Brady has plenty of strength. She bench presses multiple repetitions of 160 pounds, squats 240 and power cleans 140.
When she started learning the pole vault, she used a pole that was 11-foot-6. Now she uses two different poles that are 12-foot-6 and 13-foot. The technique of learning to carry and plant that pole correctly remains a challenge.
“It was pretty frustrating at first,” she said. “It’s hard to learn the form, and I had to walk around with the pole for a year before I even tried a jump.”
When she became adept at making the pole bend during her freshman season at Brown County, she experienced another side of her event.
“It was scary,” she said. “I felt like I was going to fall backward.”
Is there pain involved?
“Oh yeah,” she said. “If the bar falls on you, it hurts.”
She kept pushing upward, though.
“My biggest motivation was my sister’s record,” she said. “My coaches kept telling me that my sister’s record would be up there (posted on the gymnasium wall) forever. I told them I would break it.”
Now the records she breaks are her own.
Although she loves the hurdles, the pole vault is her favorite event and one that she hopes will eventually earn her an athletic scholarship.
“You go through a lot of different feelings in the pole vault,” she said. “Once you get the physical part down, it’s definitely a mental game. At the beginning, you get a rush of adrenalin, but you need to have a lot of focus. I tell myself, ‘Don’t think.’ You do what your muscle memory tells you to do.
“And you are competing against yourself.”
When she sets a personal best, does she bounce around like Stacy Dragila, the U.S. star who won the first women’s pole vaulting gold medal at the 2000 Olympics?
“I don’t celebrate a lot,” said Emily Brady, who is 17. “But I am celebrating on the inside.”
The women’s pole vault world record of 16-feet-7.25 is held by Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva. “Sixteen feet is crazy,” Emily Brady said with a laugh. “My goal is a Division I scholarship.”
Her mom expects her to accomplish that goal.
“She is very driven and very motivated,” said Kim Brady, a former track athlete who noted that girls weren’t allowed to pole vault when she graduated from Brown County in 1980.
Kim Brady noted that there is more to her daughter than sports.
“She is quite a singer,” said Kim Brady, who performs along with her husband and Kim in the band Raized On Rock during fundraisers and charity events. “And she is trained on the classical violin. She also has a 4.45 GPA in school.
“But I am most proud of the way she acts. She is polite and sensitive, and she never brags about herself. I brag about her.”
And when her dad takes photos these days, she is more than an inch above the ground.
“It’s a little scary for us,” Kim Brady said of watching her daughter go over the bar. “But she really wants to do it.”