Monday, 03 July 2017 19:32

County pole vault record holder Rachel Baxter, of Orange, to compete with Team USA in Peru

Rachel Baxter has finished her career at Canyon High as one of Orange County’s all-time great pole-vaulters.

But it isn’t the county and state records the Orange resident has broken over her illustrious four years that keeps her going.

“I’m kind of a daredevil,” said Baxter, whose background in gymnastics, a sport she competed in until sophomore year, helped her thrive in pole vault.

“I love flying through the air and getting over those bars, (that’s) what’s really rewarding to me. That’s why I stick with it,” Baxter said. “You always want to be the best you can be. There’s really no limit for pole vault. Gymnastics, you can get a 10, you can be perfect. But with pole vault, you can always go higher. That’s really what I’m aiming for.”

She’s aiming high for the Pan American Junior Championships, as she qualified to compete with Team USA later this month in Peru.

The opportunity means a lot to her, she said, as she has made three U.S. teams, including last year’s as a 17-year-old competing against 19-year-olds.

“I’m unbelievably excited,” Baxter said of the Pan Am Games. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s really tough to make these teams, and it means a lot to me.”

Baxter, a former Register Athlete of the Year who will compete for Virginia Tech in the fall, claimed her second consecutive state crown this season, clearing the bar at 14-feet even.

Appearing in her third straight state meet, she cleared her first four marks on the first attempt, including the winning height.

“She hates losing. She’s overly competitive,” said BJ Vandrovec, her coach at Victory Athletics, a track and field club. “You could never tell with her smile before and after she jumps, but she just hates to lose. That hate, that disdain for losing, that drives her to win. She’ll do whatever it takes.”

“She’s really, really, good at being in the moment,” Vandrovec said, “and understanding what is required of her to handle that next bar, that next height.”

Vandrovec said Canyon has been notified that Baxter’s 14-4 mark at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet on May 26 was a National Federation of High School record. (The record has not been processed yet, but CIF applied for it, he said.)

Baxter aims to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials in the hopes of making the USA squad that will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“My main goal is to just have fun with it, because that’s how I get better,” Baxter said.

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