2 SFA pole vaulters prep for nationals, Olympic trials

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 9:32 AM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Sitting away from the breeze a fan blows in a large warehouse that doesn’t take long to heat up, SFA pole vaulters Branson Ellis and Kaylee Bizzell are preparing for an important two weeks.

“I’m very nervous but I’m excited to compete, it’s been two weeks since we competed now I’m excited to get out there,” said Kaylee Bizzell SFA Pole Vaulter.

The NCAA track and field nationals are followed by just a week after the Olympic trials. “Words can’t describe it I mean it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but at the same time it feels normal,” said Branson Ellis, SFA Pole Vaulter.

It’s understandable why butterflies are fluttering before going on to face first-rate competition. Ellis who attended Tyler Legacy, when it was Robert E. Lee, set the Highschool state record, their track coach Jeff Erickson keeps a close eye on both helping them fine-tune their techniques.

“Branson was a gymnast and decided that he was gonna get too big to be a gymnast, so he came to me wanting to learn how to pole vault. And he’s just got amazing talent he went straight to the top immediately. Branson’s had a lot of success.” said Jeff Erickson, Tyler Legacy Track Coach.

Both student-athletes don’t have far to look for inspiration when it comes to a shot at the Olympics.

These two hopeful Olympians get to work out with one, 2012 gold medalist in London and silver medalist in the Beijing games of 2008. Jenn Shur, the New Yorker, and her husband and coach found their way to East Texas and are impressed with the culture.

“Kaylee and Branson and it’s funny I’m like wait a second I’m twice their age. I feel like when I’m training with them I feel like I’m their age I feel that spark they give off that’s why I love coming here.” said Jenn Shur, Olympic Gold Medalist.

Bizell is from Golden in Wood county and she didn’t find pole vaulting, rather pole vaulting found her, it’s a family thing.

“So my uncle used to be a pole vaulter at SFA he was a decathlete so he kind of introduced me to pole vaulting. And my grandpa and my mom kind of helped coached me.” said Bizell.

Bizell was already studying at SFA to be a nurse “So I talked her into walking on, and I think she’s won three Southland conference championships. And qualified for the Olympic trials, All American.” said Erickson.

Pulling double duty in back-to-back weeks in Eugene, Oregon this duo has rational expectations just a pair of east Texans looking to take their game to a higher level.

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