Carson Dingler is already planning where she hopes to be four years from today.
No, it wont be sitting in high school science class. Or shopping for shoes at the mall.
She dreams of traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Summer Olympics. There is no need to secure a travel agent, since she is bent on earning an all-expenses-paid trip.
She is 13 years old. When she peers into the future -- old enough to drive but too young to vote -- she imagines marching into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony.
In that dream, she is wearing a U.S. team uniform, preferably not made in China.
At some point during those 16 days of glory, she will sprint down the runway in the pole vault competition. She will plant a fiberglass pole in the trapezoid box and push against gravity. Her feet will be high above her head, reaching for the rafters but settling for anything above the top of the cross bar.
Carson remembers the first time she vaulted. She was 10 years old.
It was like flying, she said. I always wanted to fly.
She allows her dreams to be interrupted only by sweat and sore muscles. And then she moves on. Her planning includes a gold medal around her neck and her face on a box of Wheaties.
Her father, Kip Dingler, owns a float-making company in Bolingbroke. So there certainly could be a parade when she returns from her dream.
Kip said you can count on five Olympic rings on the float, against a backdrop of red, white and blue. (Hey, he can allow himself to dream, too.)
The Dinglers have a history of flying through the air. Carsons grandparents -- the late Red and Ann Dingler -- were at the head table of Macons most famous circus family. Carsons namesake was from Carson & Barnes, a traveling circus that advertised the largest big top tent in America.
She never knew her grandfather, who died in 1982. Red Dingler was an acrobat who could somersault over the backs of five elephants. And, if that didnt amaze you, he would swing on the aerial bars 50 feet above the ground.
Kip and his older sister, Connie, were part of the circus traveling show until the Dinglers finally put down roots in Macon, where King Brothers Circus boarded for the winter at Central City Park.
As a child, Kip could juggle, ride a unicycle and perform flips and tricks. (His name comes from a type of gymnastics stunt.)
When he was a high school student at Tattnall Square Academy, the school held a Circus Day. He did a front flip with a half twist on the trampoline and caught the eye of the track coach, who recruited him for the pole vault.
The training facilities were a bit crude. Tattnall did not have its own track at the time. At old Porter Stadium, he would jump over bars propped up by rain barrels and land in sawdust pits. He was offered a track scholarship to the University of Florida.
As a baby, Carson took her first steps on the same trampoline her father bounced on as a boy.
She took tumbling lessons when she was 2, then graduated to gymnastics, where she dominated her age divisions. She won two state championships while competing with Precision South in Warner Robins.
Three years ago, on the way home from a gymnastics meet in Tifton, Kip took a side trip to Fitzgerald to visit his old pole vault coach. The legendary Charlie Polhamus, who still trains in the sport at the age of 68, asked Carson if she would like to try the pole vault. After all, it was in her bloodlines.
Carson has never looked back. Or down.
Just how good is this 5-foot-3, 100-pound flying pixie from Dixie? Two weeks ago, she cleared 10 feet, 6 inches -- exactly double her height -- to win the 13-14 girls division at the National Junior Olympics in Baltimore.
This summer, the eighth-grader competed in a dozen meets from Texas to Florida to Virginia, chasing the nations best pole vaulters and leaving most of them flat-footed.
She is the No. 1 ranked girl in her age division in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and USA Track & Field. Her personal best is 11 feet in a meet, and she has cleared 12 feet in practice.
Carson has a couple of secret weapons: Mexican food and Philippians 4:13.
I always jump better after I eat burritos, she said, laughing. She repeats the Scripture I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me before, during and after every jump.
The Dinglers left their home in Bolingbroke in December and moved to Ellijay after Carsons mother, Judy, got a teaching job. Carson misses her longtime friends and classmates at Tattnall. She now attends middle school in Gilmer County.
And she knows exactly where she wants to be in another four years.
She allows herself to dream. Things are looking up for Rio.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.