Q&A with Demi Payne - Texas Track and Field Coaches Association

1. First, Congratulations on shattering your own indoor record twice at the Lobo
Collegiate Invitational. Prior to this season’s indoor meets, you had never cleared
14’; now you’ve cleared 14’ 4 times, including 3 times over 15’. What is the singlemost significant factor in your approach to vaulting now?
It's my focus. After having my little girl, my whole focus has changed. It’s gone from
pole vaulting just because I kind of liked it to pole vaulting for my little girl who I want
more than anything to be proud of her mom. That, and being fearless. I used to be
hesitant to get on big poles, and now I don’t have anything to lose, so why not give it
everything I've got. This is my second chance at my dreams so I’m definitely not going to
let it slip away.
2. What were your expectations going into the 2014-15 season?
My expectations were high. 5 days after I had Charlee I was back on the runway doing
pop ups. I’ve worked so hard the past year, so I definitely came into this season expecting
to jump high. I competed in a few small meets this past summer where I actually jumped
15 for the first time. After doing that, I knew that if I could stay healthy and keep
working hard, it was going to be a year for the books.
3. Now that you own the top 3 NCAA vaults this year (15-7, 15-3, 15-2.25), have you
re-evaluated your goals and expectations for the remainder of the collegiate season?
At the beginning of this season, I sat down with my coach and we made a list of all of my
goals for this year, and it’s so incredible to see them coming true. As far as re-evaluating
a few of them – yes. One of my top goals was to break the collegiate record...but I don’t
think the world record is out of the question. I’ve got a lot to improve on, but I like to set
my standards high, so that’s what I'm going for.
4. Your coach – Jeff Erickson – you’ve known since you were a baby. What has he
done to the technical aspect of your vault to result in such remarkable high
He has completely changed my way of thinking. When you walk into Coach Erickson's
indoor facility, it’s business. He's helped me learn how to block out the outside world
when it comes time to practice. If I’m not feeling too well that day, he’s taught me to
push through it. And that’s the key to jumping high on a consistent basis. When you push
through the bad days, it puts you in the position to jump high on any given day. And
another crucial part of me jumping higher is my plant. I'm a lot taller at take-off, and I've
got a stronger left arm, so it allows me to get on bigger poles.
5. You now only trail Jen Suhr and Stacy Dragila on the All-Time American list
(Indoors). How does it feel to be mentioned with 2 of the greats of American
It almost doesn't feel real. I’ve looked up to Jenn and Stacy for as long as I can remember
since starting to pole vault. And for my name to even be in the same sentence with them
is very humbling.
6. Granted there’s plenty of season left, especially with Outdoors, but have your
thoughts drifted to Rio for 2016?
My ultimate goal is Rio 2016. If I can stay focused and keep putting the work in, I think
I've got a good shot at it. But my goals for the moment are Conference, which is coming
up in a couple of weeks and then, of course, to take home Stephen F. Austin's first
national championship for track and field on the women's side. It’s going to be a battle –
there is some amazing talent in the pole vault field this year, but I couldn't be more
excited to compete!
7. Tell us how your daughter, Charlee Taylor, has altered your perspective on life,
vaulting and your future.
She is the reason I am doing what I'm doing right now. I am literally jumping for Charlee.
The drive I have now to succeed is nothing like I've ever felt before – I want it so bad.
Sitting out a year to prepare myself for being a mom was very hard. I missed pole
vaulting more than anything. But that time was exactly what I needed. Each day the fire
within me to make a comeback grew stronger and stronger. And now that the time has
come to show the world what I can do, I just want to point my finger at my little girl and
say it’s all because of her. She's changed my outlook on every aspect of my life. I love
her more than anything, and I’m so thankful God has put her in my life.
8. Your father, a former All-American vaulter at Baylor, gets a lot of the credit for
inspiring you to continue vaulting after the birth of your daughter. What advice did
he give you?
My father is an incredible man. I was obviously scared when I found out I was going to
be a mother back in 2013. I thought I was going to lose everything. I don’t know how he
did it, but he was able to show me that this wasn't the end of anything. If anything, it was
just the beginning. He took all of the fear I had inside me and turned it into
determination to make a comeback. He got me up on the runway in a matter of days after
giving birth to Charlee. At the time I thought he was crazy, but looking back on it, that’s
why I am back in the game right now. That’s why I am able to compete with the top
jumpers in the nation. He gave me the push I needed, and I'm going to keep the ball
9. Away from athletics of any kind, what do you enjoy doing?
Away from athletics, I really just enjoy spending time with my family. My fiancé packed
up and moved down here to Nacogdoches with me not knowing anyone, so I’m just so
proud of him and so thankful for his willingness and support. I also thoroughly enjoy
being a mother – it’s the greatest feeling. Spending time with my little girl is my most
favorite thing to do in the world.
10. You clear 15-3 and 15-7 on first attempts (Lobo Collegiate Invitational). Did you
want to continue, or was it a mutual decision to stop?
It was definitely a mutual decision to stop. I exerted a lot of energy celebrating after my
15'3 jump...15'7 nearly killed me! It took my breath away, and all I could do was fall to
my knees and thank God for everything He’s done for me.
11. You’re on the runway – crowd’s clapping … what’s going through your mind from
rocker step to bar clearance?
Right before I step on the runway, I visualize myself going over the bar. I try and block
out everything going on around me and just focus on what I need to do to clear the bar.
I’m not a finesse jumper; my highest bars are honestly not my best jumps. It’s my
commitment to what I need to do to get over the bar that’s made me so successful this
early in the season. It may not be a pretty jump, but a make’s a make!
12. The night before a meet up to competition time, do you have any rituals or
superstitions you follow, be it a particular food or music or a lucky pair of socks, etc.?
The night before I jump, I always ice bath. So if we are staying at a hotel for an away
meet, I am that crazy girl making multiple trips to the ice machine filling up the mini
trash cans with ice! I take my ice baths pretty seriously… ha ha. Also, before the meet
last Saturday, I ate what is known as a "Power Dog," but only half of it! I will continue to
do this the rest of the season.
13. Critique yourself – what are your strengths and areas for improvement?
I would say one of my strengths would be the ability to train like the boys. I’m not afraid
to pick up a big pole and run down the runway and plant it. And my areas for
improvement are endless. But that’s pretty exciting, too. If I can jump this high doing a
lot of things wrong, there's no telling how high I could go if I could clean my jump up a
little bit. The sky's the Limit!
14. What’s your major at SFA and future career interests?
I am majoring in Kinesiology with a minor in Business. I’d love to open up my own
indoor pole vaulting facility and coach kids like my dad does.
15. Pole Vaulters are a pretty tight group. You’re close with UT’s Kaitlin Petrillose and
many others from high school and before. Has the PV world’s response been
That’s what so great about the pole vaulting community! I am very close with a lot of my
competitors from growing up throughout high school jumping together. Especially
Kaitlin. She's such a talented pole vaulter, and I am so thankful to jump with her at such
a high level! Sandi Morris from Arkansas is an incredible jumper herself, and she's done
nothing but congratulate me and encourage me, as well. It's been a heck of a two weeks,
but the response I am getting from the pole vault world has been amazing. Overwhelming
– yes, but so awesome. I just hope they're ready, because there's a lot more where that
came from!