Jaci Perryman Looking to End Senior Season Strong

March 29, 2011

It’s been over 10 years now since KU senior Jaci Perryman first remembers falling in love with the pole vault. The Phoenix, Ariz. native was 12-years-old when she watched the United States’ world-class vaulter Stacy Dragila win gold in the first ever women’s pole vault at the 2000 Olympic games. After that day, Perryman was quickly hooked.

“I remember watching it with my family,” Perryman recalled. “My dad said, `Jaci, you should totally do that’. My parents encouraged me and they thought I would be good at it. I’m glad they did. I was young but I got attached quickly. I became addicted.”

Perryman caught on quickly. As a junior and senior at DesertVistaHigh School (Phoenix, Ariz.) she won the state championship in the event, breaking state records along the way. After completing her exceptional high school career, Perryman was met with the difficult process of selecting a college. After much debate she selected to stay close to home and attend the University of Arizona. In the back of her mind however, she still had aspirations to come to Lawrence some day and attend KU. After earning a bachelor’s in psychology in just three years at Arizona, Perryman had the opportunity she was looking for; to go after a master’s degree and to develop further as a pole vaulter.

“I wanted to come here for my freshman year of college, but I was too timid,” Perryman explained. “When I graduated early though it gave me the opportunity, so I just decided to go for it and come here and see what I could do.”

After competing in the pole vault at the West Regional Prelims in both her freshman and sophomore seasons at Arizona, the KU track and field coaches knew they had struck gold when Perryman announced she was coming to KU to pursue a master’s degree. Perryman hasn’t disappointed. In just a year and a half with the team she has quickly become one of KU’s top female pole vaulters. She has numerous top three finishes in both indoor and outdoor events and recorded the top mark for KU this past indoor season. Perryman recorded that mark just two months ago and moved up to third in the KU indoor record books with a jump of 4.10m (13-05.50ft.) at the New Balance Invitational in New York City. She says that night two months ago in New York has been her fondest memory thus far at KU.

“It would probably be this season in New York at the New Balance Invitational,” Perryman said after being asked to recall the highest point of her career at KU. “I’ve never been able to go to that meet before. The atmosphere was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. I PR’d in that meet and I haven’t PR’d in a while so it was good to finally feel like I was making some progress. It was nice to see that in New York and just have fun with it.”

After moving away from her family in Arizona, Perryman has had to adapt quickly to life in Kansas and has had the help of her teammates, especially her fellow pole vaulters. With eight female vaulters on the team, it’s easy to see how Perryman and her teammates treat each other more like sisters than teammates.

“We have a really close team, a ton of pole vault girls. It has given me a great opportunity to make some really good friendships. We have spent a lot of time together, especially this season. We just get a lot of good quality time together, whether it be traveling, hanging out or just leaning on each other to get through some hard practices. I’m glad I have them to support me.”

Perryman also quickly fell in love with the city of Lawrence shortly after moving from Phoenix. It was one aspect that initially drew her attention to KU in the first place.

“One of my favorite things about KU is the city of Lawrence,” Perryman explained. “I went to school in Tucson, Ariz., which is a much larger city than Lawrence. You don’t get the college atmosphere there like you do here. I really like Mass. Street, too. I just love the atmosphere here.”

Another motivator that brought her to KU was the chance to learn from KU’s veteran pole vault coach Tom Hays. Perryman has flourished under Coach Hays’ direction and admits she wouldn’t have her success without his instruction.

“He is extremely motivational and inspirational,” Perryman said in describing Coach Hays. “That’s one of the many things that I love about him. He always gets you thinking and in the right direction. He supports us and directs us in a way that allows us to make the right decisions. He also pushes us in practice. He really knows how to whip us into shape.”

Off the track, Perryman is exceptional in the classroom. In May she will graduate with a master’s degree in sport management but is still unsure what she would like to do once she leaves KU. She is considering a career in student-athlete development, but until then would also like to get involved in the community, whether it is in Lawrence or back home in Phoenix.

When she isn’t excelling in the classroom or on the track Perryman says she likes to get “crafty” in her free time.

“My friends make fun of me for baking too much,” Perryman joked. “I’ve really grown interested in baking and scrap-booking and all that stuff other people would probably find boring. I love it though.”

Perryman has proven to be a huge asset for KU track and field in the year and half she has been with the team, and knows that she will be a big aspect of the team’s success in the ongoing outdoor season. She also wants to end her fabulous career on a high note, with the goal of competing in the NCAA Championships in June.

“These last few months are going to be pretty major for me. This outdoor season I just want to show everyone what I have. I’ve been working really hard all year in the indoor season. I’m ready to put everything together and make sure I qualify for the big postseason meets.”

If the strides she made during the indoor season are any indication of what is to come in the spring, more accolades will undoubtedly be coming Perryman’s way in the coming months, and ending her fantastic career in style.