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07/06/2022 12:00 AM

Pierson Soars to New Heights with the Knights

Halley Pierson put together an excellent season with the Westbrook girls’ outdoor track team that saw the junior take second place in the pole vault with a school-record showing at Shorelines. Photo courtesy of Halley Pierson

Jumping into a new sport has become a norm for high school athletes, but to do it at the level of someone like Westbrook’s Halley Pierson is truly impressive. After playing a variety of sports throughout her youth, Halley tried out track and field as a sophomore last year and has soared past every expectation during her first two seasons with the Knights.

Halley recently finished her junior season as a member of the Westbrook girls’ outdoor track team. Halley enjoyed a great campaign in which she set a school record in pole vault while taking second place at the Shoreline Conference Championship.

Halley’s athletic career started with gymnastics, which she participated in throughout her childhood to her early days of high school. Halley also played softball in middle school and then began playing field hockey at Westbrook.

Following a recommendation from her field hockey coach to try track and field, Halley decided to compete for Westbrook’s indoor and outdoor track teams. Head Coach Sheridan Bauman wanted Halley to use her skills learned from gymnastics and translate them to pole vaulting and long jumping.

“My coach is the one who brought pole vault into my mind. I never knew anything about it. Never heard of it before,” says Halley. “I had no idea how to do it, but we learned together my sophomore year.”

Halley’s sophomore year was a learning experience for both her and Coach Bauman. The two of them read books and watched YouTube videos on the skills and techniques that go into doing the pole vault. While Bauman knew she had a talented athlete in Halley, she realized that it would be challenge to teach such a difficult event to someone who was new to the sport. After they learned together during that sophomore season, Halley felt more comfortable competing in the pole vault this year.

“This season was a big season for us. We actually understood how to do it. We were able to work on some skills,” Halley says. “The past two years, since I was a gymnast, I was able to manage over the bar. But I wasn’t fully using all of my power and, this year, I started jumping whole different marks. I was actually able to move up in handgrips, which was never able to be done in past seasons.”

Coach Bauman feels proud to have seen Halley make so much progress in the pole vault. Bauman credits those improvements to the work ethic that Halley brings to practice.

“Halley is really just all you would ever want in an athlete as a coach. She shows up to work. When she’s at practice, she’s just always working hard,” says Bauman. “She’s an all-around great athlete and just a joy to coach every single day.”

In addition to the pole vault, Halley also competed in the long jump and ran on the 4x100 relay with the Knights this spring. Halley had a prime opportunity to display her progress when Westbrook participated at the Running Rams Invitational on May 13. After struggling to clear the bar at more than 8 feet during the indoor season, Halley astonished herself by reaching 9 feet and placing third in the event that day.

“I faulted my first height on two attempts, so I almost faulted out of the entire meet with no height, but then I was able to keep going,” Halley says. “I went up height after height with my first try. I cleared 9 feet, and it was just a great feeling.”

Halley continued growing from her initial lessons learned in the pole vault as she became more familiar with the event in her junior year. In the postseason, she reached new heights. Halley a school record with a personal-best height of 10 feet in the pole vault at the Shoreline Conference Championship, finishing in second place. Clearing the bar at 10 feet in a school-record performance was a surreal feeling for Halley.

“I wasn’t expecting it. I’m not really a person to get super excited. I always just like to be calm about things,” says Halley. “I just walked over to my coach and I just told her, ‘Yeah, I just set the new school record,’ and she just jumped in the air and went crazy.”

To go along with her historic showing in the pole vault, Halley also helped Westbrook’s 4x100 relay finish in fifth place at the conference meet. Following Shorelines, Halley competed in the pole vault at the Class S State Championship and claimed fourth place by clearing 9 feet. Halley advanced to the State Open, where she finished in 13th with a height of 9-6. Halley felt that she could have done better at the Open and wants to improve on her result next season.

“Next year, I’m really hoping on placing higher than states. I didn’t have a great time there. It was a really poor meet, but I’m going to work on my speed and work on my footing for pole vault,” Halley says. “Hopefully, in long jump I’ll be able to place. There’s so many little skills, techniques, and forms you have to do, so I’ll be working on those all season.”

Halley’s unexpected journey into track and field has seen her make tremendous strides in her events. A three-season athlete, Halley never stops striving to improve and looks forward to what’s ahead in her senior year at Westbrook. All in all, Halley feels happy to be in the position she’s in following a memorable junior campaign.

“This year, I really realized that I could be a pole vaulter that actually could place,” says Halley. “Last year, I was just learning and I was happy we were just clearing heights. Now, I realize I could actually work on it and be a top-placing pole vaulter, which surprised me, but I’m really happy about now.”