Vaulting Forward

A former gymnast flourishes in her new sport

Anthony set a national standard in just her third season as a pole vaulter.
Anthony set a national standard in just her third season as a pole vaulter.
Kirby Lee/

By Caitlin Moscatello

Palo Alto, Calif.

In her freshman year Tori Anthony, a state champion in balance beam, went to her school's athletic director with a problem: She wanted to find a new sport. The routine of gymnastics training -- leaving school early, doing homework in the car and practicing relentlessly -- had worn on her. "It was five days a week for 4 1/2 to 5 hours a day," she says. "And that was all year round." To top it off, she had grown three inches, to 5'4", while recovering from a broken left foot. This is in a sport in which the average gymnast on the last U.S. Olympic team was 4'11".

Jez McIntosh, the AD at the all-girls Castilleja School in Palo Alto, Calif., mentioned that he knew a gymnast who had switched to pole vaulting and done well. Anthony followed suit, and less than three years later she is the best high school girl pole vaulter in the country. On Feb. 10 she broke the national indoor high school record, with a height of 14'2 1/2". At the world junior championships in Beijing last August, Anthony finished eighth -- the best showing ever by a female U.S. pole vaulter at the event. This season she's aiming at the outdoor national high school record of 14 feet.

Anthony, now 5'7", is succeeding with a training regimen that to her feels laid-back: She runs sprints on Sunday and Monday, vaults on Wednesday, sprints again on Thursday, and usually competes on Friday or Saturday. "I have more time to just relax, hang out with my friends and not do anything athletic," says Anthony. Her private coach, two-time Olympian Bob Slover, says Anthony's background helped her adapt to an event that intimidates many. "She's had the courage to do two backflips on the balance beam," he says. "I can't think of anything about the pole vault that's harder than that."

The daughter of Joyce, a money manager, and Tom, a retired police detective who works as a court marshall, Anthony will attend UCLA next fall. When she signed with the Bruins on Nov. 15, McIntosh arranged for a ceremony -- the second in Castilleja's history. Says the AD of her impact on the school's athletics, "She just raises the bar.