Senior Cal Poly pole vaulter Brooke Tjerrild has been named the Big West Field Athlete of the Year, won three consecutive conference pole vaulting titles and recently helped the Mustangs win their first women’s track and field Big West Championship.
Since Tjerrild has broken two school records in both outdoor and indoor pole vaulting, pole vaulting coach Brad Pickett said her legacy in Cal Poly’s program will not be forgotten.
“She has probably been the most important pole vaulter that has ever come through here as far as the record she has set, leading the rest of the team to rankings they have never seen before and the consistency she has shown at a high level has driven this program over the last four years to the next level,” Pickett said.
Tjerrild found early success in high school when she took second place at the state championships with a jump of 13′ 6″, ranking seventh nationally.
When she came to college, however, she could not rely solely on her athleticism alone and had to make changes to her technique. Pickett said that Tjerrild’s initial technique was similar to a “straight pole vaulter” rather than a modern one where they bend the pole and get spring out of it.
“What that caused was – she jumped a certain height which was good enough in high school, but she was kind of tapped out,” Pickett said. “This year we had a season and you can see all those changes taking place and coming to fruition.”
During her collegiate career, Tjerrild said she has seen her hard work pay off. She improved her personal best from high school by six inches, coming to a total 14 feet which Pickett said is “one of those barriers that college athletes want to obtain but not many do.”
“It is a confidence booster knowing that your hard work paid off and I would say 14 feet was a huge barrier for me,” Tjerrild said.
However, she said she has not only seen improvement in her vault but in her leadership as well. She led Cal Poly to a ranking of sixth in the nation as an event squad this year which Pickett said is “really unheard of at Cal Poly.”
“The number one thing she does is that she works harder than everyone else,” Pickett said. “When your best athlete and your best event specialist work harder then that drives everyone else to work just as hard to try to keep up.”
Tjerrild’s combination of hard work, athleticism and talent paid off early in her career as she won back-to-back Big West Conference pole vaulting titles as a freshman and sophomore. However, her name was still three-quarters of an inch short of the record books as she jumped 13′ 7.25″ her freshman season.
“I really was not too aware of what the record was and then to go back and know that I missed it by a small amount lit a fire under me,” Tjerrild said.
During her junior year, Tjerrild finally broke the record, not once but twice, for the indoor women’s pole vault. In January 2020, Tjerrild jumped a program record-breaking 13′ 8.5″ which eclipsed former Mustang Paula Serrano who jumped 13′ 7.25″ in 2000.
“I trained really hard my junior year and that is when I did break the indoor record which was fantastic,” Tjerrild said. “There are not words to describe it. I immediately burst into tears a little bit knowing all the hard work does finally pay off.”
Pickett said he was also proud of what Tjerrild had accomplished.
“I was excited because I see it on a daily basis in terms of the blood, sweat and tears aspect of what she puts into it,” Pickett said.
Tjerrild would then break her own record a month later as she upped the mark to 13′ 9.25″.
After breaking the indoor pole vaulting record in 2020, Tjerrild broke another school record in 2021. On April 10, Tjerrild broke Serrano’s outdoor pole vaulting record of 13′ 8″ with a clearance of 13′ 8.5″. However, Tjerrild was still not done yet.
Tjerrild broke her own outdoor record two more times this season with jumps of 13′ 9″ and 14′.
“There is a competitiveness in me that is not going to leave anytime soon so I am really excited to keep pushing the limits,” Tjerrild said.
With her jump of 14′, Tjerrild moved up to No. 12 in the national rankings and had her eyes set on one more goal she has yet to accomplish – the NCAA finals.
Tjerrild finished in 15th place at the NCAA West Preliminary Round with a clearance of 13′ 8.25″, narrowly missing out on a qualification for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Nonetheless, Tjerrild finished her track and field career at Cal Poly as a decorated competitor while jumping her way into the record books.