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SRU Senior, Moniteau Grad Kendall Grossman Has Put Past Strife in Pole Vault Behind Her With Second Straight Conference Indoor Title

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Kendall Grossman stood on the runway.


Wondering how it had all gone so wrong.

(Pictured above, Slippery Rock University senior and Moniteau graduate Kendall Grossman gets ready to race down the runway in the pole vault in a meet during last year’s indoor season. Grossman won her second consecutive PSAC championship in the event last weekend.)

Then a sophomore vaulter on the Slippery Rock University women’s track and field team, the Moniteau graduate couldn’t move. Paralyzed with inexplicable and irrational fear. 

She couldn’t bring herself to grab a pole, sprint, and fling herself over the bar like she had a thousand times before.

Grossman wondered if she ever would again.

“I was jumping really well,” Grossman said of her feelings at the time. “Then one day, nothing made sense.”

Grossman has been pole vaulting since she was 13. It’s the family business; her grandfather, Frank “Joe” Grossman was the first back in the days of steel poles in the late 1960s. Her father, Matt, once held the school record at Moniteau, clearing 14-1 in 1994. Matt’s cousin, Chad Grossman, also cleared 14 feet that year.

At least nine of her relatives tackled the event.

But here Grossman was, staring down that runway, the event suddenly completely foreign to her.

It wasn’t the first time Grossman had to start from scratch.

During her high school days, her pole snapped and splintered in her hands during a vault and she tumbled hard to the ground. It rattled her. Made her second guess herself. Shattered her confidence.

Grossman built herself back up then and she was determined to do it again.

A little more than two years later and now a senior, all those things that once didn’t make a lick of sense does again.

Grossman finds herself now in the best mental and physical space in her life in the event.

Over the weekend at Lehigh University, she cleared 13 feet, ¼ inch in the pole vault at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Indoor Track Championships to win the conference title for the second consecutive year.

It was the first time in her long career that she had cleared 13 feet.

SRU also won the women’s team conference title.

“It means a lot,” Grossman said. “Being able to contribute to your team overall is super cool. That first (PSAC championship last year) that I won was definitely a bit more of a struggle. But this one, it’s just been a lot of fun. It was a good time.”

Grossman’s confidence was soaring during this indoor season, which allowed her to do so, too.

Grossman firmly established herself as the best women’s vaulter in the conference. Her effort was also the 12th best across NCAA Division II.

The first glimmer of light can be traced all the way back to those darkest of days when she began reconstructing herself. It culminated later that year with her first PSAC championship. She entered that event as the 10th seed and shocked the field by winning the whole thing.

“That gave me a major, major confidence boost,” Grossman said. “It’s made me relax and helped me have more fun.”

The pole vault is not for the faint of heart. It’s arguably one of the most difficult things to do in all of sports. As Grossman has said in the past, you can do 17 things correctly, but do the 18th thing wrong and you won’t get off the ground, let alone clear a height.

It wasn’t all that long ago when all 18 of those things were going awry.

Grossman, though, treated that adversity as a challenge. She could either shrink away from it, or tackle the troubles head on.

She chose the latter.

“Those rough times kind of made the good times better,” Grossman said. “I’m very thankful that my last indoor season ended in a perfect way. It’s really refreshing. Part of me wishes I could have gotten this confidence sooner, but another part of me os kind of happy that it happened this way because it makes you appreciate it that much more.”

Grossman isn’t done yet.

There’s an outdoor season to seize, and she hopes to pick up there where she left off this past weekend.

Clearing 13 feet this spring is chief among her goals. And maybe even higher.

Her personal best effort during outdoor season is 12-7.

“Thirteen feet was a really cool accomplishment,” Grossman said. “Obviously, I wouldn’t be satisfied with that for outdoor, but anything above that, I would. I’ll take it.”

Grossman is also dealing with the impending end to her career.

It will soon be over. A decade of ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, sweat and tears in the pole vault finished in a flash.

In mere months, she’ll stare down that runway for the last time, pole in hand, heart pounding in her chest, as she gets ready to sprint and propel herself over a bar.

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but I’m trying not to think about it,” Grossman said. “Indoor was a little easier because I could just keep saying I have an outdoor season to look forward to ahead. I know at the end of outdoor, it’s gonna hit pretty hard. I’m gonna be very, very said. I’m going to miss it a lot.”

Pole vaulters are a unique breed. It takes a special athlete to do it and that fosters closeness among the competitors.

Grossman said everyone roots for everyone else, even vaulters from rival schools, even athletes ahead of them in the pecking order, because they all know how tough the event can be.

“We all love seeing each other at each meet,” Grossman said. “We all love cheering each other on. It’s pretty special.”

Grossman wants to continue cheering vaulters on, perhaps as a coach.

It’ll be a way to stay connected to the sport.

“I’m definitely gonna get involved in some way,” Grossman said. “Maybe as a coach or an official. It’s a good way to keep with it and especially getting young kids interested in it. Hopefully, one of them will end up loving it and have it make as much of an impact on them as it did on me. Thinking about that is kind of cool.”

Grossman’s younger brother, Ashton, has taken up the pole vault at Moniteau. She intends on helping him hone those skills.

“He’s really into it right now,” Grossman said. “He’s a junior. My dad, who coached me in high school, wanted my brother to get into a little slower than I did. He didn’t want to burn him out on it. Next year I’ll be able to watch more of his meets.”

This year, though, Grossman intends on enjoying every one of the last moments of her pole vaulting career.

It has taught her so much, especially about herself.

“One of the biggest things I learned is to be aware that this is a skill you have and that negative self talk so often makes you forget how hard you’ve been working and how good you really are at what you’re doing. What helped me this season was the realization that I have been pole vaulting for 10-plus years or so and I’m able to do it and I’ve proven that to myself over the years. Just trust that fact that you can do it. That’s a pretty big lesson to trust in your capabilities.”