Name: Taylor Starkey
School: Casteel H.S.
Taylor Starkey is officially Arizona's top girl pole vaulter. Last season, she won the Chandler Rotary Invitational with her first vault outdoors over 13-feet. She capped off her AIA interscholastic season, with a D2 Girls Pole Vault State Title, but the real magic was just beginning. In May at the USATF Arizona Club State Championships, Starkey cleared 13-5 which is the current state-record. A month, later Starkey cleared a personal best at 13-6 at the Clovis Street Vault in Clovis, California.
Where are you from and when did you begin vaulting?
I was born in San Luis Obispo, in California. I started vaulting my freshman year during the fall. My first meet ever was the Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada. Going into it my PR was 8 ft, and I jumped 10 feet my first time there.
Your dad, Dean and your mom, Jill were both professional vaulters and your brother Garrett vaulted for Stanford and Arizona State. You've competed in front of a community that's known you and your family for years. Once you go to Kansas that dynamic will likely change. What will you miss the most about vaulting with your family in Arizona?
It's really nice having my club in my back yard so I get to walk out there and practice and lift whenever I want. It'll be different not having my dad and my brother as my coaches.
In addition to pole vault, your family invests other hobbies like motocross and barrel racing and you even played volleyball. Was there ever something that you tried and didn't stick to, but that you would like to try again?
I've probably tried every sport and but I did volleyball for eight years throughout my entire childhood. I really like to win.
Do you listen to music before competing? If so what's on your playlist?
The only time I listen to music is when I'm traveling to meets. I listen to pretty mellow music. I don't like to isolate myself in my tent and I prefer to socialize before meets.
Knowing your Dad's and your brother Garret's coaching styles, what's one piece of advice you would impart to future AZPV Academy vaulters?
To jump high, you need to have a good mindset. You can't be freaked out about the little things like going up or your grip. You just have to do it and trust the process.
You vaulted a personal best of 13-6 at the Clovis Street Vault in Old Town Clovis, and while it's not in the middle of a stadium, street vaulting in a sense brings the party to the people. What did it mean for you to vault a personal best out there?
It was so cool. That is definitely one of my top three meets that I love going to. My mom and my dad used to compete in the earliest street vaults. It was so cool to be at the same meet. Once you make a bar you get to throw stuff to the crowd like t-shirts.
If I could read a quote from your dad that I found from 2004.
"Like surfing, pole vaulting is a lifestyle," said Dean Starkey in "Pole Vaulting's Old Man" by Ken Keenan (2004).
Do you see similarities between pole vault culture and beach culture, and what's your favorite thing about the pole-vaulting community in general?
I could see similarities between the two. When I see someone new, I'll go up to them and start talking to them and asking them questions. Everyone's really nice to each other, and surfers like to socialize too. Not everyone can pole vault and so we all share something special.
You played volleyball and beach volleyball for Casteel and you've said that you have an affinity for beach life and beach culture. When you crave it the most but can't actually go, what do you like to do to get a 'beach fix?' Is there something you like that takes you back to that?
The next best thing to do is go to the lake with all of my friends. I like to go cliff jumping and there's this dock that we like to sit on. That's really the closest we can get to a beach in Arizona.
You had previously expressed interest in attending Arizona State and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, but Lawrence, Kansas is especially different from Phoenix and San Luis Obispo. What was the deciding factor that compelled you to commit to the University of Kansas?
It was a hard decision. All of the coaches were great in their own ways, but it came down to the scholarship money. I'll be paying for school myself and I won't have a job, being busy with school and practice every day.
Tom Hays has a ton of experience as a student-athlete vaulting for Kansas, and coaching national champions and All-Americans both in Kansas and Arizona. What do you like about his coaching philosophy or style?
He's very passionate about the sport and very knowledgeable. He's been around for a while and has gotten results. That's very important. I'm excited to be coached by someone else, since that's never happened before.
Have you decided on a major and if not, what draws you academically at Kansas?
I'm thinking of doing physical therapy, kinesiology, or nutrition.
Will you vault indoors and if so, where will you open your season?
Yes. I will open my season at the Pole Vault Summit in Reno, NV. I look forward to it every year. That meet is so much fun. There are maybe a thousand pole vaulters staying together at a hotel and we compete in this horse-riding arena filled with pole vault pits.
What's your favorite vacation spot?
I obviously love going to the beach. My grandma's house is about five minutes from Seal beach which is between Long Beach and Huntington so it's not as crowded. It's nice to relax without a whole lot of people around.
What's the best literary work you read in high school?
Recently I had to do a book report on 'The Power of Full Engagement', which is about showing you how to manage your energy instead of your time, and how it plays into with your eating and sleeping habits.
What is your favorite thing to eat after vaulting?
Usually I won't eat breakfast, if it's a morning meet. Sometimes afterwards I like getting a burger at In-N-Out, or getting a burrito at Costa Vida, or my mom make something at home. I definitely like eating a lot of food after I compete.
Would you rather have the ability to play any instrument or communicate in any language?
I would definitely like to be able communicate in any language.
What are you most excited to do when you get to Lawrence, Kansas?
I'm excited to go and explore. On my visit, I got to walk around the campus but I didn't see a lot off campus. Clinton Lake is right next to it and so I'll get to see that a lot.