Tasha Clark used to dream about reaching new heights under the bright lights of Nashville with guitar in hand.
That changed when she discovered the pole vault, though she is still striving to reach new heights.
“I think I like the same event over and over again, but I like to fix the little things to make it better,” the Mead senior said of her change of focus. “It has a lot of variables, so it has a lot of challenge. You have to think about it a lot, analyze every part of it.”
That’s the academic approach to her specialty to be expected from an honor student whose only B in high school came from a first-year advanced placement biology teacher.
Clark seems to be one vault from being the best Spokane area high school vaulter, a step on the path of her new dream of being an Olympian.
She won her second straight District 8 4A title last Friday by increasing her record for the meet to 12 feet. But it’s telling that she was less than pleased because she already was the district record holder (11-6) and she came up short of adding an inch to her personal record, which is a state-leading 12-3.
“I just need the right day,” she said before the competition. “We ordered a new pole, a longer one. I should be able to jump higher with that. I just need to get a nice day, put it all together and I’ll be great.”
Clark, who will vault at the University of Washington and study nursing because she likes to help people, including competitors, is chasing Jordan Roskelley, a junior at the Oregon. During her senior year at Mt. Spokane, Roskelley cleared 12-8 and is one of 10 Washington vaulters, including three Greater Spokane League alums, to make 13-plus.
Clark is hoping for a big effort at state, because if she passes Roskelley’s Spokane best, set during a regular-season meet, she’ll break the state meet record of 12-6.
That would be quite an accomplishment for someone who had all her softball gear at school for the first day of spring practice as a freshman. That’s when her gymnastics coach, who doubles as the Panthers’ pole vault coach, talked her into trying out for track.
“She said I could try track and always go back to softball,” said Clark, who thought she would give all the jumps a try.
From there the stories differ.
“She likes this story a lot,” coach Laurie Chadwick said. “For the first meet of the season I think I had two kids that made starting height (7 feet). At practice, because no one else made it, I said, ‘Alright, who else wants to compete on Thursday? If you think you can maybe make the starting height you’re in the meet. She says, ‘I do!’ And I said, ‘OK, you’re in.’ Then she jumped 8 feet in her first meet.
“According to her story I told her, ‘You just got lucky.’ So I put her in the next JV meet and she jumped 8 feet again. Then I decided she didn’t just get lucky. I don’t remember telling her she got lucky, I just remember it was a little surprising.”
Chadwick didn’t see a record-breaking vaulter but knew she had a high-end competitor when Clark went 10-3 in the last meet of her freshman season.
“I was looking at that thinking she can achieve quite a bit, (but) there has to be a big ownership piece of that,” Chadwick said.
Clark did her part by doing summer track and going to clinics and camps.
“She has a lot of speed on the runway,” Chadwick said. “More than that, she has put a lot into the technical part of the vault. When you get around 10 feet, to get higher you have to do a lot more technically than run down the runway and swing up.”
Chadwick said Clark has barely tapped her potential.
“She can probably go 14 feet, 15 feet,” she said. “Actually, she’ll get mad if I say 14. People have told me she can be an elite vaulter.”
Clark has high aspirations, but to keep her anxiety in check she retreats to her past.
“I still play the guitar as a stress reliever,” she said, her preference ranging from the Beatles to current country.
Clark started on the piano because her friends played, then took up the guitar eight years ago. The funny thing is she doesn’t want to stand out in a crowd.
“I don’t like playing in front of a whole bunch of people,” she said.
She would much rather be above the crowd.