Lakan Taylor’s best event in gymnastics was the vault.
She has long since given up gymnastics. She spent her high school years cheerleading, playing basketball and pole vaulting at Saginaw Boswell, where she was a two-time Class 4A state champion.
Now at Alabama, she’s the only freshman competing in the women’s pole vault at this week’s NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.
Taylor’s mother, Tina, said the atmosphere the coaches created helped her daughter decide on the university. For Lakan, Tuscaloosa, Ala., reminded her of home.
“It was hot, everybody was just so nice, and I just really clicked there,” she said.
The resemblance doesn’t stop her from feeling homesick, but Alabama has been like a second home for her.
“The campus is beautiful, everything, it was just like I knew that it was where I fit in perfectly,” she said.
Tina said the coaches made her husband and her feel comfortable about letting their daughter go to school so far from home, but ultimately, it was her daughter’s decision. Lakan also visited Arkansas.
“She liked the way that they talked about team, and everybody worked together [to] be a team,” Tina said. “It’s not just about winning, but it’s about learning and getting better, and that’s what she wanted to do, and she is doing it.”
Lakan’s season hung in the balance at the regional meet May 30 in Jacksonville, Fla. She had one more jump to clear 13 feet, 7 1/4 inches. She did and, following a three-hour weather delay, she cleared 13-9 1/4 on her second try to send her to Oregon.
Lakan had rebounded from the SEC meet, where she had failed to clear the bar.
“I knew that if I wanted to make it to nationals I was really going to have to concentrate and not let anything distract me,” she said.
With her final meet of her freshman season Friday, Lakan is starting to put things together in practice. Her pole vaulting coach, Alabama volunteer assistant coach Brad Smith, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Lakan cleared 14 feet.
Despite the increased pressure of the NCAAs, he expects her to bring the same drive and confidence that she has had in every meet this season.
“She exudes confidence,” Smith said. “She doesn’t let a level of competition get to her because she knows that at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what everybody else is doing as long as she does what she’s supposed to and just treats each meet like she’s supposed to. It’s just her and the crossbar and the runway.”
These grads of Tarrant County high schools have qualified for the NCAA track and field championship, Wednesday through Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
|Name, local tie||College||Event|
|Aldrich Bailey, Mansfield T’view||Texas A&M||400 meters|
|Brea Garrett, Arlington Martin||Texas A&M||Hammer throw|
|Lakan Taylor, Saginaw Boswell||Alabama||Pole vault|
|Shelbi Vaughan, Mansfield Legacy||Texas A&M||Discus|