Kortney Ross: “Be impressive – there are kids out there watching”
Kortney Ross has come in and out of pole vaulting several times in her short career, and nearly left the sport to become a police officer. Now she is back to stay for as long as the pole will have her.
Kortney Ross is back where she belongs: in San Diego, flying over bars. Her collegiate career took her up the Pacific coast to the University of Oregon and then back to south California at San Diego State University. After thinking several times that her pole vault career was over, she is now part of the global vault community. She recently returned from a goodwill meet in Taiwan, which reaffirmed all the reasons she cannot leave the sport behind.
“I watch my vaults and I see that I have so much to figure out and so much to fix. That’s what keeps me coming back: I can get better.”
Ross competed in Taiwan in front of a strong, knowledgable pole vaulting audience. But among the street vaults, beach vaults and mall vaults in the US, she’s able to do what she loves best: impress the fans with a good show.
“I enjoy seeing the reactions from the fans where they get so into it. They don’t know all the technical stuff. All they know is it’s really cool.
“I want people to walk away knowing there’s this something out there that people do, and I want them to be impressed by us. A lot of the times on the back of the runway I’ll tell myself to ‘be impressive, there are kids out there watching.'”
After finishing at San Diego State University, long-time Aztec coach Rich Fox and some alumni nearly guided Kortney Ross onto a completely different path: the San Diego Police Department. She was already keyed into that possibility.
“My dream was to be an FBI agent – I did not want to be a street cop. But there were a couple pole vaulters from SDSU that became police officers. I was talking to them about it, they love it, they are so glad they became police officers.
“My favorite TV shows are Law & Order or that type of cop show, Quantico is another. That kind of had something to do with that. But then I sat down with Fox and he said “OK, that’s TV, that definitely doesn’t happen all the time.
“Being a police officer was totally because I had watched the shows.”
When she is not flinging herself over bars, Kortney Ross is at the other end of the sports spectrum: calmly hitting golf balls at the driving range.
“We do such a crazy sport that golf becomes a repetitive motion that gets my mind away from pole vault. I go to the driving range only once a month, because I stop thinking about all those things I’m doing wrong. I just swing the club.
I find golf to be pretty boring, but I can hit the ball pretty far so we were thinking about doing long drive… I think a lot of it has to do with out shoulder strength. We have that pole vault shoulder strength, and that makes you a lot better and more consistent in hitting a golf ball.”