KC Lightfoot: Vaulting for glory

Sophomore pole vaulter KC Lightfoot became the 11th male pole vaulter in Baylor history to clear 19 feet during the Texas A&M Invitational on Jan. 25. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

Dirt biking, four-wheeler riding, motorcycling, skydiving. All things Baylor sophomore KC Lightfoot loves to do, but add pole vaulting 18 feet into the air to the list, because he’s one of the country’s best.

As a freshman, Lightfoot finished eighth at the Indoor Championships and fourth at the Outdoor Championships, reaching All-American status in both. Despite his relatively unprecedented success, he said he was still upset with some of his results.

“You could say there was a little bit of frustration,” Lightfoot said. “I wouldn’t say there were really any nerves. I don’t really get too nervous before meets anymore, but Indoor Nationals was kind of a scramble meet. Not everything was really lining up the way we were hoping for.”

The pole vaulter already holds the Baylor Indoor record at 18 feet, 7.5 inches, but he’s only been “serious” about the sport since he was 16 or 17. He played baseball throughout his childhood and only picked up a pole when his dad, a former vaulter himself, encouraged him to try the sport. Then, when he started to see his name in world rankings in high school, he said his competitive spirit drove him to reach the top of the sport.

“I want to be one of the best to do it because I think if you aren’t, I mean, I think you could always work more to get there,” Lightfoot said. “I always wanted to be in the top five in the nation. Like if other people knew me, I always thought that would be cool.”

His mission for the top spot includes jumping twice a week [including up to 10-15 times each day], drills the other days and lifting either two or three times a week depending on whether there’s a meet. Baylor pole vault coach Brandon Richards said Lightfoot’s work ethic is unimaginable.

“A lot of times I actually have to shut him down a little bit early in practice because he always wants to take that one extra jump or two or three more counts at the end of practice,” Richards said. “I’m blessed to have an athlete that wants to work as hard as he does.”

But as competitive and driven as Lightfoot is, he doesn’t like to set specific numbers for goals because it “just gives you something to worry about.” He did say there are two accomplishments he’d like to achieve this year: the outdoor record [19 feet, 3 inches] and Olympic qualification.

“That’d be a pretty big honor, for sure,” Lightfoot said. “This last summer I got to compete for my country twice. I got to compete in Belarus and the World Championships … but the World Championships don’t weigh as much as the Olympics when you say it to somebody else. I think making the Olympic team is obviously a dream.

“It’s not the easiest thing to do in the world, that’s for sure,” Lightfoot said as he let out a chuckle. “It’s definitely in the back of the head and it will be for the rest of the year. It’s not going to go away.”