12-9 mm pole vaulter

MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune U-Mary pole vaulter Davina Carr. 12-13-2014

Nothing appears too tall for University of Mary pole vaulter Davina Carr.

The sophomore may even feel a leap over the Sears Tower is within reach.

OK. That’s an overexaggeration, but you get the point.

In Carr’s mind, there’s nothing that she can’t accomplish. The sky is not the limit.

That fearless and competitive attitude is why U-Mary track and field coach Mike Thorson is glad Carr is part of his team.

The Marauders opened their indoor season last weekend in Fargo at the Dakota Duals Classic and don’t compete again until Jan. 16 at Montana State.

“A lot of it is that mental part. That attitude,” Thorson said. “She’s not somebody who takes no for an answer. She thinks she can do anything.

“There is one ingredient that separates the good from the great and that is passion. She has the passion to prepare. The passion to compete. She has that drive for excellence.”

Carr has earned that right to believe anything is attainable. She has spent her whole athletic career battling adversity and overcoming odds.

Carr underwent six surgeries on her right ankle from  seventh grade year through her senior year of high school. Ankle breaks are common among gymnasts and pole vaulters. Carr competed in both.

She once had plates and screws put in her right ankle, but those are long gone. All that remains are what she calls “the cool scars.”

Carr completed well in the pole vault in high school as a freshman and sophomore. After that, her time to shine was limited. She spent most of her time under the knife and then learning how to walk and run again.

The stars lined up

The fact that she ended up at U-Mary is pure fate. Thorson scouts the Washington state cross country meet every fall in the Tri Cities. He tries to meet up with track athletes and their coaches that same weekend.

Carr is from Nine Mile Falls, which is right outside of Spokane. She and her coach made the long trip to visit with Thorson at the cross country meet.

Thorson saw an athlete with an injured ankle who was about 20 pounds overweight due to injury-related inactivity. She shed the extra pounds once she got consistently active at U-Mary.

Carr’s coach sold Thorson on her ability. Carr sold herself with her outgoing personality.

“I was pretty nervous, but she got better and better as the year went on and her body got thinner and thinner,” Thorson said of Carr’s freshman year. “I never would have recruited her if I hadn’t got to meet her and her coach. If I would have found out she had (multiple) surgeries I would have said, ‘You can come to the University of Mary if you want to come, but we’re not going to scholarship you.’ It was fate that she was willing to come to the Tri Cities to meet me or she wouldn’t be here. It’s that simple.

“A lot of kids aren’t going to drive three hours to meet with some coach from North Dakota about a school they know next to nothing about.”

Carr, a nursing major, was hoping to compete in gymnastics in college. Injuries ruined her chances to be recognized and probably scared some recruiters away.

U-Mary and track was her back-up plan — and she’s loving it. Quitting had never been an option.

So far, so good

The result was an impressive freshman year. Carr vaulted 12-1½ and placed seventh at the NSIC meet during the indoor season. She reached 12-1¼ and finished second in the conference during the outdoor season.

Carr isn’t shy about talking about her lofty goals for this season — remember, there isn’t anything that isn’t possible. Carr would like to clear 13-3, break the school record (13-1¼) and automatically qualify for the national meet (13-0½).

Her right ankle has allowed her to train for those goals.

“It’s 100 percent to what it’s going to be,” she said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be 100 percent again, but I think it’s the best it’s going to get.”

Carr has been able to focus on getting healthy. That, combined with her tough mental attitude, makes her a force in the NSIC.

“I have been able to work out for a longer period of time, rather than working out for a month, breaking an ankle and waiting nine months, Carr said. “Learning to walk and run again takes time.”

“Being able to go two seasons where I haven’t been out is very rewarding,” she added. “A lot of people take it for granted that they can walk and run. To have to learn how to walk and run again every year — oof! It’s no fun at all.”

Once Carr got to U-Mary, she became aware of the rich history of the women’s track and field program and the numerous All-Americans it has produced. Once again, it’s something she believes that isn’t out of her reach.

“Look at this room,” Carr said while pointing to the pictures of All-Americans on Thorson’s office walls. “It makes me strive for that. I want to have my picture on coach’s wall. That’s awesome.”

It’s a goal that Thorson doesn’t doubt. He believes she possess the talent, the passion and the mental toughness.

“You have to be a little bit crazy — in a good way — when you think about the event,” Thorson said. “You race down with this little pole and go upside down over this little bar. You have to be a little bit reckless, careless and be willing to put your body at risk. Most people aren’t willing to do that.”

Carr’s surgeries and scars leave little doubt she’s willing to put her body through almost anything to achieve her athletic goals.

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Reach reporter Cindy Peterson at 701-250-8245 or cindy.peterson@bismarcktribune.com.