Pole-vault phenom has one goal left at Justin Northwest

05/08/2014 1:05 PM

11/12/2014 5:12 PM

At first glance, Desiree Freier’s bedroom is much like any other teenage girl’s.

The color palette is dominated by pinks and greens with framed pictures of friends and family hung neatly in place.

Once inside the room, however, one only has to turn around and look at the wall that frames the bedroom door. There, as neatly positioned as the pictures, hang more than 60 track and field medals.

“I think there are a little over 60,” said Freier, a senior at Justin Northwest. “I used to keep count of them, but I lost track.”

That’s understandable.

Over the past four years Freier has won nearly every pole vaulting event she has entered. Last month she managed the improbable, setting two national records in consecutive weeks.

The first came at the New Balance Nationals in New York. Freier cleared 14 feet, 2 3/4 inches, a height no high school girl had ever cleared in an indoor competition.

A week later at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin, she did it again, this time clearing 14 feet, 3 1/4 inches to set the national outdoor record.

“I usually try not to show too much emotion or get too excited,” said Freier, who has signed with Arkansas. “But that was pretty overwhelming. I let myself enjoy the moment.”

This weekend, Freier will head to Austin for the fourth time to try for her third gold medal in the 5A girls pole vault.

Standing perfectly straight with chin up and shoulders back, she just about passes for 5 feet tall. What sets her apart, though, is her speed and powerful frame.

“[The Northwest] coaches wanted her to run the 100 at first, but in the end it took too much out of her, so she decided to put all of her efforts into vaulting,” said her stepfather, George Rodriguez. “She’s a workhorse. No one will outwork her, that’s for sure.”

Her stepfather is no novice when it comes to vaulting.

Rodriguez held the pole vault record at North Texas for nearly 20 years.

His youngest son, Jeffrey, holds the UT Arlington record at 17 feet, 6 inches, and his oldest, Devin, who vaulted at McNeese State, is Desiree’s personal coach.

While the boys were great jumpers, they acknowledge Desiree is in a league of her own.

“Her ability is truly something special,” George Rodriguez said. “If she continues to work hard and push herself, which she will, there is no reason she couldn’t be a factor at the Olympic Trials.”

The world record of 16-7 was set in 2009 by Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia.

Freier has improved her personal best by 9 inches in each of the past four years. If the pattern holds, Freier could be the world record holder as a senior at Arkansas.

The big records can wait, though. She has some unfinished business in Austin.

“All the medals, the records, it’s really not something to brag about,” said Freier, smiling at the absurdity of the statement. “I haven’t met all of my goals just yet.”

The goals are never far from her mind. A mirror hangs on the wall just a few feet from her bed. At the top, written in dry erase marker, are two sets of numbers: 14 feet, 3 inches and 14 feet, 9 inches, with boxes drawn next to them. Underneath the numbers is a personal mission statement: “You got this! Believe in yourself ... you can do it!”

The 14-3 box has been checked off. One goal remains.

“I’ve got one last meet to get 14-9,” she said.

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