Carson Dingler is just a freshman at FPD, but she is already flying high ... literally.
The precocious 14-year-old has established an American record for a female of her age in pole vaulting. She set the U.S. indoor mark for 14-year-olds at the TFCUSA (Track and Field Coalition of the United State of America) national meet last month at the Indoor Cross-Plex Complex in Birmingham, Ala. She had a vault of 12 feet, 8 inches, which bettered the previous standard of 12-7 that was set some 15 years ago.
Dingler, who is 5-2, was a state champion gymnast at the age of 7. She took up pole vaulting after giving up gymnastics, and she began to take it seriously in the past couple of years
The results have been staggering. Last summer, she competed in 32 events, capturing 30 first-place awards and two runner-up spots. One of those events came in Mobile, Ala., where she took first-place honors in a field of 80 participants.
In FPDs first outdoor meet this season at Landmark Christian, she had a vault of 11-6, which was the best vault of the day by either a girl or a boy. The top vault by a female last year in the GHSA Class A private school meet, the division FPD competes in, was 10-4, so Dingler would appear to be on track for a state title in 2014.
She gives much of the credit for her success to her personal coach, 70-year-old Charlie Polhamus of Fitzgerald, who has coached some 100 athletes to state championships. Polhamus is an accomplished vaulter in his own right, having won two masters world championships in the event. Dingler is Polhamus first student to establish an American record.
Dinglers penchant for a life in the air is in her genes. Her grandfather, Red Dingler, was a circus performer on the aerial bars for some 20 years with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Clyde Beatty Circus and the King Brothers Circus, among others, while her dad, Kip, was a standout athlete at FPD, with his specialty being the pole vault.
Kip Dingler won a GISA title in pole vault in 1978 after taking the state title in the long jump in 1976 and the high jump in 1977. Like Carson, Kips personal pole vaulting coach was Polhamus.
Kips success at FPD earned him a track and field scholarship at Florida, where he was a pole vaulter and decathlete for the Gators. Three knee surgeries limited his participation, but he lettered four years with a pole vault best of 16-3.
Kip and his dad are probably best known as master float builders. If you have witnessed a parade in the Southeast in the past half century, you most likely saw one of their products. Last year, Kip had floats in 63 different parades.
Carson Dingler, who already has a vault of more than 13 feet during a practice session, has a goal of 14 feet this year. The thought of making it to the Olympics is there, if not in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 then definitely in Tokyo in 2020.
By the way, the world record for a female pole vaulter is 16-7, held by Russias Yelena Isinbayeva.
Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org