High School Sports

FPD’s Carson Dingler vaulting higher and higher

Any time the words “world record” are uttered in conjunction, something special has occurred. For Carson Dingler and her parents, that phrase does not even justify the special times the family has experienced this summer.

Since June 30, Dingler and her parents -- Kip and Judy -- have embarked on a trek from the Youth World Trials in Chicago to the IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia, from July 15-19, and most recently, the USATF National Junior Olympics in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 30. And in the process, Carson Dingler set a Youth World Trials record jump of 13-feet-4¼ for the 15-16 age division.

“It was surreal,” Dingler said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It was just a great experience. I’ve been very blessed in the past couple weeks.”

Dingler, a rising junior at FPD, currently sits as the top-ranked pole vaulter in her age division in the country and anywhere from third or fourth in the world. But she’s not the only Dingler to have competed in the pole vaulting field.

Her father, Kip, earned a track and field scholarship to Florida after competing at FPD and winning a state title in pole vaulting in 1978. His experiences, including an interaction with one of his former coaches, led his daughter to the sport.

At the age of 8, Dingler spent her time doing gymnastics. When her father’s coach saw her, he told her, “Well, that’s kind of similar to what your dad did. Why don’t you come by and try it sometime?”

Fast forward a year, and Dingler had abandoned gymnastics for track and field.

“She was so little, they didn’t even make poles for her,” her father said. “The crossbar up top there,” he said as he pointed toward the bar pole vaulters aim to avoid, “we cut off one of those and let her play with it when she was 40 pounds.”

Dingler started vaulting competitively four years ago, and the arrow has trended upward since. At the high school level, she boasts back-to-back GHSA championships, but she also competes in AAU, USATF, open meets, street vaults and in the World Championships.

And while her world record performance sounds flashy, Dingler said she knew she could reach the height. In fact, she had reached higher this past season; her best in competition was a 13-6 at the eighth annual Ross Invitational on Feb. 28 in Griffin.

Instead of patting herself on the back for her world record-performance, Dingler is looking ahead to greater feats.

“I wanna break the next one now,” Carson said.

And instead of being able to celebrate her achievement, Dingler felt a tug as soon as she left the pit from her world record jump. It wasn’t a family member, but rather a woman from the IAAF -- the International Association of Athletics Federations.

“You have to come with us,” said the woman, according to Kip Dingler .

Dingler was forced to take a drug test in an open room rather than a bathroom. Forty-five minutes later, she finally could move on with the rest of her day.

“It was tough for her,” Kip Dingler said of his daughter having to take a drug test in front of people.

After her drug test experience and winning the Youth Trials, Dingler earned a spot on the USA World Youth team; she trained in Chicago for two weeks before flying down to Cali, Colombia, to compete against 150 other countries in the 15-16-year-old age division.

“My favorite part of the trip was meeting everyone from all of the other countries,” Dingler said. “I have friends in every country now. That’s pretty cool.”

The USA team shipped the poles to Colombia, but customs took them, and the Dinglers have still not received the equipment.

Using borrowed poles, Dingler cleared 3.9 meters in preliminaries and 3.85 meters in the finals, which ranked her 10th in the competition.

“I didn’t come out with the ending result I wanted and expected, but I had to adjust,” Dingler said. “I didn’t have my poles. So I had to adjust to that. It’s kind of hard, because I don’t train to use other people’s poles. I train to use my custom poles.”

Only days after returning from Colombia, the family bolted to Jacksonville, yet again using borrowed poles, to compete in the USATF National Junior Olympics against 40 girls.

Within a span of a month, the Dingler family had traveled from Chicago to Colombia and Jacksonville.

“It’s been amazing; I’ve been pole vaulting since high school, and never been involved with this level,” Dingler’s father said. “Everybody always says, ‘Carson’s just like her daddy,’ but I say, ‘Oh, no, she has far surpassed what I was.’ I thought I was good, she’s as good as I thought I was. She loved every minute of it.”

But all of the achievements and world rankings do not faze or affect Dingler. Soon to be walking down the halls of FPD again this fall, she sees herself no differently than her fellow classmates.

“I’m just like everyone else,” Dingler said. “It doesn’t really change me.”

Now, Dingler focuses her sights on breaking the 14-foot barrier at the high school level; she wants to break the high school record of 14-7. Outside of school competitions, she seeks to make the Youth World team, which will travel to Russia next year.

Another trip to South America would be welcomed. The Olympics head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, and in a 2012 article in The Telegraph, Dingler spoke of her dream to attend. Now, with the Olympics approaching, the dream may become a reality.

“I kind of knew in the back of my head back then that it was a possibility, I just had to work hard to get there,” Dingler said. “It’s cool that I’m kind of here now.”

But in order to reach the Olympics, Dingler believes she must get stronger and faster and start using longer poles. The opportunity is ahead of her with the support of her family and even her own pole-vaulting facility.

In the near, tangible future, however, the Dinglers will travel to Virginia to compete in the AAU Junior Olympics, an event Carson won last year. Afterwards, the family will head back to Jacksonville for the Jacksonville Street Vault.

Dingler wishes to jump in college and has received a “handful” of letters from universities but has not opened any. For now, she has thrown them in a box and will consider them later. One thing is for certain, however: she does not want to stay in Georgia.

“Just anywhere but Georgia,” Carson said without a change of expression.

Her father said Florida State would be a “great school for Carson to go to,” noting the success of the track program. Her mother even attended the university. But her father said, “I don’t know if that’s quite far away from us.”

“It’s not,” Carson said.