By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor
Hayley Horvath is spending the next few weeks just kicking around waiting for her sophomore year to start at Towson University.
It’s downtime well-deserved.
And while she is sipping a cold drink on the beach and basking in the sun, she can close her eyes and smile at what transpired this summer. On July 19, in the first international competition of her career, the Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, graduate took second place in the U20 pole vault competition at the Pan American Games in Costa Rica.
Horvath vaulted 3.90 meters (12 feet, 10 inches), finishing behind Nastassja Campbell (4.27 meters), a Texas high school state champion. The Princeton resident was disappointed she did not reach her personal best of 4.10 (13 feet, 5 1/4 inches), which she first hit in winning the 2018 NJSIAA Meet of Champions. But she felt good about the overall experience.
“I jumped well enough, but it’s not what I was hoping for. It was fine, though, for my first meet of that size,” she said.
The Pan Am games include competitors from North, South and Central America, and features some of America’s top talent. Included in the competitors was University of Georgia-bound Matthew Boling of Houston, who recently set the national high school record in the 100 meters.
“It was definitely something new,” Horvath said. “The stadium itself was just massive. It was cool to look around and see all the seats. And everyone who was there was extremely talented. Some of them, if you follow track, you’ll know their names.”
They are starting to know Horvath’s name at Towson after she had a successful debut year at the Maryland university. She became the first freshman in program history to qualify for the NCAA East Region Prelims, and she set the school pole vault record by matching her personal record of 4.10 in winning the Colonial Athletic Association meet. She also finished third in the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships.
“Overall I enjoyed it,” Horvath said. “I was hoping I would PR, which I was a little upset about. But I was able to match my PR, and I jumped it three or four times. So I’m getting more consistent about it. When I thought about it, a lot of kids don’t do well their freshman year because they’re adjusting to college. I was still able to match my PR and I jumped well in big meets. I was happy overall.”
Horvath was encouraged by her coach to try for the Pan Am games. Vaulters needed to have achieved a height of 4.05 meters to be eligible for the qualifying meet in Miramar, Fla.
“I reached that a few times,” she said. “My coach was like, ‘Why not go?’ That guaranteed that I was [on campus] three weeks longer. I stayed at Towson and took a summer class for the first five weeks of summer so I could stay down there and train with my coaches.”
Only the top two in Florida qualified for the Pan Am games, and Horvath matched her personal record to tie with another woman and advance. Once the competition ended, she was ordered to stand down by her coaches and just relax, since she had been training five days per week since last August.
It was training well-spent, however, and in looking back on the Pan Am games, the work was worth it. “The whole thing was definitely a good experience. One that I won’t forget. It definitely gave me more confidence knowing I can be up there with all these extremely talented athletes.”