Remus Native Hixson Vying for Olympic Bid
ALLENDALE – Remus native Kristen Hixson is witnessing her track and field career come full circle.
A 2010 Chippewa Hills graduate, Hixson rocketed onto the national pole vault scene at NCAA Division II powerhouse Grand Valley State, claiming individual indoor and outdoor NCAA pole vault titles in 2012 and setting an NCAA Division II pole vault record (14-9 ¼) at the 2014 outdoor track and field championships for her third national title.
At the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships this March, Hixson came home fourth, with a clear of 15 feet, 3 inches, finishing behind 2012 Olympic gold medalist and world indoor pole vault record-holder Jenn Suhr.
Now Hixson has the opportunity to showcase her talents at the international level when she takes part in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials on July 8, 10 in Eugene, Ore.
The 2014 GVSU graduate currently sits fifth nationally on the list of top vaulters.
The top three finishers will qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"They ask me if I wanted to be in the Olympics since I was a little girl, and honestly I had never thought about it,” Hixson said. “I didn’t even know that I was going to be going to college for pole vaulting, let alone the Olympics someday. You know, we were just always involved in athletics my whole life, and never did I think that I would have a professional career in athletics someday."
Former high school track and field coach, Sally Schafer, says she knew early on she had a dream athlete in Hixson.
"We’ve kind of watched her grow since graduating from Chip Hills,” Schafer said. “It was a pleasure watching her those four years, and coaching her. We could see the drive, and she’s a goal-setter. I think she was just the complete package of an athlete that every coach wants to coach."
Hixson is no stranger to competing on the international stage, having won a gold medal in the pole vault at the 2015 North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships.
"I’ve had the two years plus of training for this moment, and it’s sort of led me to here, so we’re just easing into it, keeping to the same routine,” Hixson said. “I’m pretty much as prepared as I’m going to be. But there are some amazing U.S. vaulters, so it’s going to be some high heights. I think I’m going to have to PR or at least continue doing what I’ve been doing to have a chance.
“I truly cannot imagine the feeling that it would feel like to come down off of the mat and know that I just made the Olympic team, for something that I’ve been working for so long now. It’s just, I’d be speechless."
Regardless of how she finishes at next month’s Olympic trials, Hixson has done her hometown proud.
"To think that possibly, I could be watching an athlete that I coached back in her younger days, and who represents our small community in Chippewa Hills, that would be beyond words,” Schafer said.