Kayla Caldwell

Ohio born and Ohio raised, Kayla attended Indian Valley High School in Gnadenhutten prior to Hillsdale College, where she earned a degree in Sports Studies and Physical Education

While competing for the Chargers, Kayla was a 7-time All-American, set school records for both the Indoor and Outdoor pole vault, and set the NCAA DII record for the Indoor pole vault. Now training with Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, AR, Kayla is consistently in pursuit of the podium at events all across the USA. In July of 2016, she competed in her first Olympic Trials.

Kayla is no stranger to flying high. In addition to her exploits on the vault, she was also a competitive gymnast for 12 years, and now balances her training with a part-time position leading aspiring gymnasts at the Jonesboro Gymnastics Academy.

Though she maintains a busy schedule, Kayla always makes time for her pet Dalmatian, who she admits is her life.

When given the chance to reflect on her time on and off the track, Kayla says, “Even though I am very competitive I am always fun and goofy too. I always want my friends and even competition to be laughing and having fun with me.”


Kayla how did you become a pole vaulter?

“I was a competitive gymnast for 12 years. I had dreams of becoming an Olympic gymnast and when I was going into the 8th grade I did a double back to my head and broke my neck. The doctor said I needed to take it easy and take a small break from gymnastics, my brother did track and field so I decided to run with him. I broke a ton of sprint records my first year of track and won every meet I competed in so I decided to run again my freshman year of high school. My track coach said to me “hey your a gymnast right? Come pick up a pole” and I instantly fell in love with pole vaulting.”

When did you start?

“My start in athletics goes back as far as I can remember with gymnastics and cheerleading, and then I picked up track and field in the 8th grade, and pole vaulting in the 9th grade. “

What motivated you?

“When I was young I think the thing that motivated me most was trying to get a college scholarship. Neither of my parents went to college and we struggled financially for a long time and my dad made it clear that if I wanted to go to college I needed to make good grades and be really good at something so I could get a scholarship and pay for college. The other thing that always motivated me was that When I was 5 my mom and dad divorced and my mom left and I barely saw her. That feeling of abandonment made me want to prove to myself that I was good enough and could be successful without the help of anyone but my own will. Also I always just wanted to know how good could I be, how far can I go? And since I was 5 I’ve always dreamed of being an Olympic gold medalist.”

How long have you been doing this?

“I have been pole vaulting for 11 years”

What are your best and worst moments?

“My favorite moments in pole vaulting were winning my first international meets in South Korea and Taiwan and experiencing those different cultures. Also when I medaled at the 2015 USA indoor national championships and jumped a personal best in the same competition. My worst moments were no heightens at 2 outdoor national meets that I worked so hard for and had high expectations for, and also in 2015 After I jumped the world A standard two weeks before USA outdoor nationals I broke a pole and the doctors thought I broke my neck. When the paramedics took me out of the competition on the stretcher and the crowd clapped for me I thought that would be the last time anyone would clap for my vaulting…thank God I was fine and only needed a week of bed rest but it was a very scary moment”

Who helped you get where you are

“Oh my goodness so many people have helped me get where I am, all of my coaches from gymnastics to high school track, college track, and now Earl Bell and Jarius Cooper. Also my family has played a huge role in making me the person and athlete I am today”

“And most of all my grandma Mema has been to every big competition I’ve ever had in my life. I’m very thankful for her support and that I have gotten to share so many great moments with her. And my grandfather was huge in my track and field career. He was a track athlete himself and he always made sure I had everything I needed. He passed away my last year of college and I just no he is still with me at every competition. He would’ve been so pumped to watch me compete at the Olympic trials”

How do you feel about where you are right now?

“I’m am not content with where I am right now but I am confident that I am making the right decisions and doing the right training to get myself where I want to be. I feel like I still have a lot to prove and that I want to show people and I’m excited for the upcoming season”

How did it feel to go to the Olympic trials and almost achieve your dream of being an Olympian?

“It felt so good to finally achieve a dream that I have waited so long for, competing in the Olympic trials. Only 1% of the people I’m their sport make it to that level so that was huge. But I was crushed when I didn’t ,make the Olympic team. I felt like I was so ready and things just didn’t come together. It just wasn’t my time and it gave me enough fuel for my competitive fire to drive me to goals I never even imagined I could achieve”

Where do you see yourself in 2020?

“I see myself accomplishing my life long goal and standing on top of the podium at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020”

Who is your mentor

“My mentor is my grandma. She is an amazing woman. She is strong, smart, can do any and everything, and is the glue in our family. She is a great Christian woman and keeps me grounded and focused on what is important in life. If I can be half the woman she is I will be successful in life”