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Clearing the standard: Eastern Washington pole vaulter Morgan Fossen hopes to make school history at NCAA Track and Field Championships

UPDATED: Thu., June 10, 2021

Lifting, twisting and maneuvering her floating body several feet into the air appears natural for Eastern Washington pole vaulter Morgan Fossen.

Technique was learned, but not hastily.

Fossen, EWU’s lone representative at the NCAA Track and Field Championships this week at the University of Oregon, had a relatively pedestrian high school career before elevating herself – literally – among the best Division I athletes in the country.

She topped out at 10 feet at North Medford High School, a 2½-hour drive from Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, where she and 23 other vaulters hope to reach the podium.

Eugene also is home to Lane Community College, where Fossen began to realize her potential.

Fossen walked onto the Lane program in 2016. She focused primarily on one event and by the end of her freshman season had made the substantial jump of 12-6, ultimately winning a Northwest Athletic Conference championship. She was second as a sophomore.

“I started getting the knack for it in Eugene,” said Fossen, whose younger sister, Megan Fossen, plays basketball for EWU and also played at Lane.

“I loved competing in the Twilight (NWAC) meets at (the University of Oregon).”

When Fossen returns to the iconic track and field facility, she’ll be competing on college pole vaulting’s biggest stage.

Fossen earned her ticket to Hayward Field by clearing 13-8¼ at the NCAA West Regional two weeks ago in College Station, Texas.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Fossen said. “The transition to EWU was tough. I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked to when I first got to Eastern.”

Fossen’s top marks during her early days at EWU were worse than her best in junior college , topping out at 11-10¾ in 2019.

Her 2020 outdoor season was essentially wiped by the coronavirus pandemic (she vaulted 12-5 at a Boise State meet), following an indoor season in which she no-heighted at the Big Sky Conference championships.

EWU pole vaulting coach Eric Allison believed he had a gem in Fossen if she could shore up her technique.

“She had the confidence to get better, she just needed to do the little things better. She struggled with the pole.” Allison said. “But she put in the work and has learned a lot.”

Much of her improvement was between her ears.

“There was a lot of mental work,” Fossen said.

Being pushed by a series of talented teammates helped.

EWU’s deep and decorated women’s pole vaulting team – which had four of the Big Sky’s top eight vaulters – was ranked as high as No. 8 in the country this season and included Big Sky Conference champion Katrina Terry.

Fossen bested Terry (12-9) at regionals to advance to the NCAA championships, the first EWU women’s athlete to qualify for the meet since 2014.

“Just having that group in practice competing against each other makes a huge difference,” Allison said.

The competition gets about a foot better this week against the likes of top-flight vaulters such as Arkansas’ Nastassja Campbell (2021 personal-best 14-7) and LSU’s Lisa Gunnarsson (14-7).

Fossen would likely need to at least break EWU’s school record (14-0) set by Keisa Monterola in 2012 to reach the top eight and earn All-American status.

“If I can just focus on myself and my abilities, hopefully I can get on the podium,” Fossen said.

Allison believes Fossen is capable of hitting the 14-0 mark.

“She’s ready. She has been looking good,” Allison said. “She has a shot to be on the podium.”

Ryan Collingwood can be reached at (208) 676-6576 or at ryanc@spokesman.com

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