By Emily Canterna
Canterna began running track as a sophomore at Conner High School and didn’t try the long jump until she was a junior. After being redistricted to Cooper High School in 2009, she won the school’s first state title in the Track and Field Class 3A state championship with a long jump of 17 feet 8 and one quarter inches. Two years previous, she won the 2007 state championship title for gymnastics, even after dislocating her hip on the balance beam. Canterna competed as a member of the Five Star Gymnastics team in Erlanger for ten years.
College recruiters took notice of Canterna’s impressive athletic abilities, especially former UK head track coach, Don Weber, who was her coach during her first two years at UK. After one year of coaching Canterna in the long jump, Weber decided to train her to compete in the pole vault. In Boone County, where she attended high school, there was not an opportunity for students to compete in the pole vault.
During her first competition at the vault, Canterna cleared a height of 11 feet 2 and a half inches.
The UK track and field coaching staff was replaced this year with the introduction of Edrick Floreal as new head coach. Assistant coach, Will Thomas, is coaching Canterna and others on the pole vault this year.
“She’s gotten better every meet, but she’s still learning the event in every way” said Thomas about Canterna.
Along with her athletic achievements, Canterna has remained on the Dean’s List since her first semester of college, does weekly community service at an elementary school, and shadows a speech pathologist at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center to supplement her major in communication disorders.
“I’ve been learning how to time manage with a 17 hour class schedule, 20 hours of track, and five hours of shadowing at work each week,” said Canterna.
The student athlete credits her education, her high school track teams, and her coaches from both Conner and Cooper High School for her continued success.
“My track team at Cooper showed me how to thrive in a team atmosphere, because gymnastics is such a solo sport. The practices in high school were actually a lot harder than they are in college endurance- wise. In college, we focus much more on power workouts, so the endurance that I gained from practices at Cooper helped me transition,” Canterna said.
Canterna does not have the years of training that most other collegiate athletes competing in the event have. Yet, she continues to impress her coaches and teammates as she nears UK’s pole-vaulting record.
“I’m three inches away from reaching the university record of 12 feet 11 and three-quarters inches. I’m hoping to beat that record come SEC in two weeks. I’m trying to go 13 plus. Going over 13 feet is that mark that sets you apart and makes you a competitive pole-vaulter,” Canterna said.
During a meet in Nebraska on Feb. 1, Canterna cleared a height of 12 feet 8 and a quarter inches, a personal best. Still, she hopes to continue improving.
“She’s way ahead of the curve for beginners,” Thomas said. “My hope for her is that she can vault 14 feet, which would get her to the NCAA national level and make her an all-American.”
Canterna will compete at the indoor SEC meet Feb. 22 at the University of Arkansas.