LIBERTY – Adrenaline rushes through Rachel Homoly as she waits on the runway. She gathers and sprints towards her target, driving her pole into the ground and taking off.
Homoly appears to float for a moment before reaching his peak, then clearing the bar and letting go of the pole. After her pole vault, she floats to the mat, another successful vault attempt.
This is Homoly’s happy place, the place where she thrives. The Liberty junior dominated the pole vault competition in Missouri State and nationally.
“It’s the closest thing to flying and being able to put it all on the line,” she said of the pole vault.
How it all began
Pole vaulting is not your usual sport, with most pole vaulting athletes not being given a pole vault in their cribs as babies and destined to become pole vaulters. The journey for Homoly, however, started young.
It all started in fifth grade when she met Jeff Fogel at her family’s Cross-Fit gym. Fogel is the former track assistant at Liberty North and Park University. Currently, Fogel is the head coach at Belton High School. But it was at a pole vault clinic hosted by Fogel in Liberty North that Homoly was introduced to the sport.
When Homoly’s football team broke up a year later, she wanted to continue her sports career. She wanted to take pole vaulting more seriously. With Fogel’s help, Homoly was introduced to former NCAA Division I National Champion Todd Cooper. Cooper is a former Baylor University pole vaulter and now owns his own pole vault gym in Excelsior Springs.
“He’s hands down one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Homoly said. “He brought out a lot more confidence in me, to really trust my own abilities, but also trust his abilities. It’s really easy to communicate with him and learn from him.
Confidence is the key to pole vaulting. A slight hesitation can force you to miss your target and then fail your attempt. Homoly explained that being in his own head is one of his traps. She thinks too much and compares herself to other athletes.
“I’ll have a resting face on the track and my dad will be like, ‘Rachel, you need to smile.’ So when I can relax and trust myself, that’s when the big leaps happen,” she said.
Create new records
The big jumps have certainly come for Homoly, who holds the Liberty school record and the state record for the highest jump. She eclipsed 13 feet 10 1/2 inches in the Gary Parker Invite. This marks the sixth place in the country.
“Showing everyone what you’re capable of with strength and speed, it’s really great to see it all together,” she said.
Homoly is a great individual athlete, but a better teammate. Liberty head coach Dan Davies shared that sentiment.
“Rachel is an excellent teammate almost at fault. She doesn’t want the honors to be focused on her all the time,” he said. “I think that embarrasses her and sometimes she has to be persuaded to accept praise for doing what she does.”
While she hopes to qualify for national championships and the Olympics, Homoly also has plans for much more. She is passionate about travel and photography and hopes to pursue a career in the medical field. She’s also still a high school student with a hobby that many can relate to.
“I love shopping,” she laughs. “If it’s athleisure, you can catch me in anything Lululemon.
In most competitions, she no longer jumps in the girls’ division, but with the boys. Although she is always marked with the girls, if she jumped with them, she would compete alone thanks to the heights she reaches.
The love of competition
Since jumping with the boys, Homoly has been able to have more competition.
“If I were going to go with the girls, it would be a whole girls session and then I’d have a 30-minute competition just for me,” Homoly said. “Then the boys wouldn’t start until 8 or 9 p.m., so that helps with time management.”
She also doesn’t hold back that she definitely wants to beat some of the boys she’s pole vaulting against.
“I think it hurts their self-esteem,” laughed Homoly. “The boys will come and say, ‘Oh, are you jumping with us today?’ It’s funny, but it pushes us all to be better.
When the time comes, Homoly will have the pick of the litter for her college decision, but that will have to wait as the junior continues to advance in her Liberty Track career.
She takes it one step at a time, one step full of laughter and love for her sport.
She will bring her high-flying talents to the Suburban Conference Championship at Liberty on Friday, May 6.