Pima Community College sports

Pima spotlight: NJCAA champion pole vaulter Jaida Olson

Pima pole vaulter Jaida Olson (Pima photo)

Being successful and achieving multiple indoor and outdoor records in pole vaulting at the college level is by no means any easy feat, especially in a freshman year.

It takes a certain level of skill, technique and a willingness to embrace a daredevil mentality when suspended upside down in the air with only a staff to hold your weight.

Jaida Olson fully embraces and embodies that mentality.

“You definitely have to be fearless in a way. It is hard, I have had mental blocks before,” Olson said.

To avoid those mental blocks, Olson tells herself, “I got this. It’s gonna be okay. It’s safe. You got mats around you. You have enough experience to have a safe fall. If you do fall, it happens.”

It is Olson’s first year as a pole vaulter at Pima College and she has already broken multiple school records.

She first broke the pole vault record with a mark of 3.67 meters (12.04 feet) at the Cody McBride Invitational.

Olson cleared that mark the second time at the ACCAC Championships with a mark of 3.80 meters (12.47 feet).

“The first time, I broke it at my first track meet, which I also PRed (personal record),” Olson said. “I was just really excited. I was kind of hopeful for the rest of the season, because if I can do this now, how much better am I gonna be with the training for the rest of the season?

“The second one, I PRed by a foot after I broke the indoor record, so that was shocking, a really amazing experience.”

She has also placed first in the Region I, Division I Track and Field Championships clearing 3.36 meters (11.02 feet) on May 3.

Olson took first place in the NJCAA Division I National Championships on Thursday in Hutchinson, Kansas, with a mark of 3.46 meters (11.43 feet).

Athletics have always been part of her life and her family. Her two older sisters were in track & field and played basketball, one of them — Bryanne — earning a scholarship to play under coach Todd Holthaus for the Aztecs.

“I did track with my other sister; I have two older sisters,” Olson said. “All my sisters were in basketball together, too. We’ve all just kind of had our own thing and been good at different things.”

Olson grew up competing in gymnastics. It was at one of her sister’s track & field events where she watched pole vaulting for the first time.

“My sisters did track during their high school seasons,” Olson said. “I was a gymnast before I did pole vault, so I did gymnastics for 10 years. I would always go to their track meets and see girls pole vaulting. I realized there’s nobody that did it.”

Olson credits her gymnastics background with helping her get acquainted with pole vaulting at a much easier and faster pace.

“We actually do gymnastics drills to help with pole vault,” she said. “A lot of people are scared to go upside down, but I never was because I had that from gymnastics. A lot of the strength aspects helped with pole vault, too. It’s easier to get into pole vault if you’ve been a gymnast before.”

Going to those events and spectating the older pole vaulters was all that was needed for Olson to realize that it was something she wanted to try.

At one of those meets, she said she thought to herself, “That looks like fun. I wanna try that. I could probably be good at it.”

Olson took that newfound passion and ran with it, earning a scholarship at Pima.

“That’s how it all started,” she said. “That was the end of middle school and my sophomore year I started pole vaulting.”

Olson went to Pusch Ridge Christian Academy but did not compete in pole vaulting for the Lions’ track and field team.

It was with the Pole Pilots Track & Field Club in which she began pole vaulting. Learning the event was no easy task, but she credits the coaches for being patient with her and always willing to help her learn.

Most of the coaches from the track & field club also help the Pima College staff, so making the step up to the collegiate level and getting acclimated was a smooth transition for her.

“They’ve really helped me a lot, coach Roy (Willits Jr.) and coach Jen (Croissant),” Olson said. “They were my coaches for all of high school. It was an easy transition for all of us, I think.”

With one more year to go at Pima, there is a cathedral-sized ceiling for the standout athlete.

“It definitely makes it higher, the confidence level in myself, to know that I can keep going, I can keep getting better. I’ve already done it once, I can do it again,” she said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top