Field star vaults her way to award

Kacey Barnett
Kasey Barnett, 21, a recreation administration major, practices pole vaulting, the event she was the CCAA champion for in May 2013.Photo credit: Maisee Lee

After four years of competing in track and gymnastics at Chico High, Kasey Barnett added pole vaulting to her repertoire during her first season at Chico State.

For the now-21-year-old senior recreation administration major, it’s definitely paid off.

“I came to Chico mostly for the track program,” Barnett said. “Coach Oliver pulled me in and said ‘I’ll teach you to pole vault if you come to Chico State,’ and that was something I had always wanted to do with my gymnastics background.”

Three years and plenty of hard work later, she won the CCAA Women’s Field Athlete of the Year. Barnett was champion in both long jump and pole vaulting at the CCAA championships in May.

That day in May was remarkable for Barnett, who succeeded in both field and track events by placing fifth in the 100-meter dash, seventh in triple jump and was on the team that placed third in the 4-x-100 meter relay.

As a way of congratulating Barnett, former women’s — now men’s —track and field coach Oliver Hanf nominated her for the CCAA Women’s Field Athlete of the Year, though he thought that wasn’t enough.

“I thought Kasey was the athlete of the year, but they divide it into field and track categories,” Hanf said. “Because she anchored our relay team that finished third, as well as the individual events she competed in, which was the best that our team had ever done in the sprints, I felt she deserved it.”

Hanf said that he had to describe Barnett’s performance to the coaches from the other schools at the meet, and that when he finished describing her, all of the other coaches agreed Barnett was their pick.

In 2014, Barnett looks to improve on the award and reach new heights.

“Well, since pole vaulting was really new to me, it took me a couple years to really get it down,” Barnett said. “Now that I feel that I am a pole vaulter, and I know what I am doing, I am trying to incorporate a lot of different drills specific to the sport.”

Barnett described how her events are short and explosive, which helps her when training.

The new women’s track and field coach, Robert Nooney, a 2008 Chico graduate, looks forward to Barnett leading the team much like she did last season.

“We’re definitely going to rely heavily on her this year to carry the women’s program in the sprint, jumps and pole vaults,” Nooney said.

“It’s her senior year,” he said. “Like Chico has seen with so many, even myself, special things happen your senior year, since you’re kind of staring at graduation and the next chapter, and it’s like a good pressure that develops.”

He believes his team has enormous potential this season, with good reason — the intrasquad track meet in December posted 10 broken records.

It wasn’t a real competition, but Nooney said it sure seemed like it.

Chance Keenan can be reached at [email protected] or @chancelikelance on Twitter.