For Jennie Sewell, the past five years at Sam Houston State University have been quite an exciting time. During her career as a Bearkat, the senior pole vaulter from Rockwall, Texas earned the record for female pole vaulting, reaching a height of 13′ 7 1/4″, and became the first Bearkat athlete to receive a gold medal at the Texas Relays this past April.
Yet none of these accomplishments may have happened if it wasn’t for a fortunate misunderstanding over five years ago.
“I had been offered a scholarship to come here,” Sewell said. “It was Signing Day, and I signed with Sam Houston State. Though I signed believing it was the last, it was the best mistake I ever made”
Since pole vaulting wasn’t initially offered at her high school, Sewell wasn’t able to begin her pole vaulting career until her junior year.
“I had never seen or heard of pole vaulting, but my high school coach, Coach Nelson, described it to me and I became interested in it,” Sewell said. “He told me that you need to be fast, strong and have a gymnastic background, and I had been in gymnastics for 10 years.”
Though immensely competitive, Sewell didn’t become stellar overnight. With five days a week of practicing, and some practices lasting, two, three, or even four hours, it took a lot of hard work, dedication and motivation.
“Failure motivates me,” Sewell said. “If I’m in practice, and I don’t do something right, I’ll continue to do it even after Randy says to stop.”
She credits Randy Flach, a former Sam Houston pole vaulter, and current Student Assistant as being vital to her success.
“He taught me everything,” Jennie said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without either Coach Curtis Collier or Randy.”
Despite having a stellar resume on the field, Sewell said she does regret her inability to make the NCAA Indoor Nationals this past year.
“I wanted to make Indoor Nationals, but I choked under pressure,” Sewell said. “No one from Sam Houston State has ever made it there. I was so distraught over the loss, I cried to Coach Collier, and coach told me my character will be the deciding factor, so it motivated me.”
Sewell bounced back nicely for the outdoor track and field season, and will be competing at the NCAA Regional’s in Des Moines, Iowa beginning May 25th thanks to her jump at the Texas Relays, eclipsing 3.8 meters, the requirement to qualify for the Regional Meet.
As for what lies ahead for Sewell after graduation, it may begin overseas.
“I studied abroad in the fall of 2005, and ended up in the pole vaulting capital of France (Clermont-Ferrand),” Sewell said. “I want to go back to France and teach English.”
Regardless of where Sewell ends up, her legacy and impact on the Bearkat track and field program could remain stamped in the record books for years to come.