Emma Hunt kind of laughs at how it all started.
Back in eighth grade, the Ocean Springs student tried out pole vaulting because, well, why not? An athletic student-athlete with a remarkable ability on the soccer pitch and a background in gymnastics, Hunt almost seamlessly took to the airborne sport.
The current Greyhound senior signed to pole vault at Mississippi State last week, punctuating her epic rise in the track and field event.
“If you had asked me a couple years ago, I definitely couldn’t have seen it. I actually started pole vaulting a few years ago as a joke — just like, oh, I’ll go out there and put a stick in the ground,” Hunt said Monday. “It didn’t seem like that serious but I actually loved it. Now I guess I’m here.”
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OSHS track and field coach Tim Sayers’ retelling of Hunt’s track and field start is a bit less modest.
“We knew she was special from the beginning,” he said. “We called her up (to the varsity) as an eighth grader because she was jumping so well.”
Hunt ended up taking the silver medal at the state championship that year and followed it up with two more second place finishes before finally breaking through and winning gold as a junior last year with a jump of 10 feet, 6 inches.
“She’s very determined and hard working. She has battled through some injuries through the years but overall, she’s never wanted to stop or back off,” Sayers said. “She’s full steam ahead and loves what she does. With her determination and competitive spirit you get a high quality athlete.
“I can’t imagine the potential she has once she gets up there to MSU.”
‘I love it’
Hunt said being isolated as a pole vaulter is actually part of what attracted her to the unique sport.
“I loved that,” she said. “It was based on my performance and not a team so I could work on it by myself and improve myself.”
Where most people will never get higher than a few feet off the ground, Hunt routinely soars well in excess of 10 feet.
“The crazy thing about flying through the air is everyone always asks me, isn’t it scary? But it doesn’t really faze me anymore. I’m used to getting 14 feet in the air,” she said. “You want to get into a position where the pole kind of slings you upward. That’s one of the main reasons I love it.”
Making a decision
Hunt actually visited Starkville the weekend of Sept. 16, when the football Bulldogs annihilated LSU 37-7. She didn’t commit while on her visit, but it didn’t take long to make up her mind.
“I did it the day after,” Hunt said. “I was pretty sure when I visited it was the place for me. I weighed all my options and really could only see myself there. I couldn’t see myself any other place.”
Hunt’s decision was made well over a month ago, but she said it wasn’t really real until MSU posted her signing on its social media accounts.
“It didn’t feel real until about a few days ago,” she said. “When State site put it on Instagram and Twitter and I thought it was so cool. It kind of made it official.”
OSHS will hold a signing ceremony for all of its athletes at 10 a.m. Dec. 4.