Former South Dakota athlete looking to pole vault for Canada in next Olympics

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The Associated Press

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Photo: Submitted

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.: A former University of South Dakota athlete in her 30s has set her sights on making the Canadian Olympic team as a pole vaulter, saying it’s never too late to try things.

Jamie Connor is a Colton native who is eligible to compete for the national team because she is married to a Canadian and lives in Canada. If she makes the Olympic team, she would be competing at age 35.

Connor vaulted a personal best of 13 feet 1.5 inches in a March 1 meet in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is setting her sights on 14 feet, which would put her in contention to make the Canadian team, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader ( ).

Connor said her effort is about not giving up on your dreams.

“People who think it’s too late to try something – that’s not the truth. The truth is you can always get better at things,” she said. “Yes, you’re going to run into physical limits to an extent that come with age, but this way you don’t have to live with regret.”

Connor was a Division II All-American her junior year at USD after basically starting from scratch as a freshman and battling injuries. After college, she spent time trying to make a go of it professionally, going as high as 12 feet eight inches in practice, but an eating disorder stalled her progress to the point where she knew she had to make changes. One of those was leaving pole vaulting behind.

“It was based on a lot of self-doubt and negative feelings,” Connor said. “I was plateauing in my sport, I wasn’t taking in the proper nutrition _ I was more and more obsessed over what I looked like. My eating habits were really limiting what I could do.”

Things have changed this time around.

“Nutrition fuels my workouts,” she said. “It’s a positive thing now rather than something based on a negative body image.”

She did triathlons and bicycle races, got a masters’ degree from Colorado State and got married. In 2012, she was watching the Olympics with her husband and saw some of her friends from her pole vaulting days on television reaching heights she thought were attainable.

“I started feeling a little sad about the idea that my time was past,” Connor said. “I knew if I left it at that, I’d have regrets. Then I started thinking. What if I got back into it? I could still go to the Olympics.

“You never know until you try.”