Soaring over the influence


Freshman Pole Vaulter Emily Presley has overcome many different challenges in her young life. She’s overcome seeing her family struggle with drugs and crime. The St. Clair, Mo. native earned All-American honors in pole vaulting during the 2016 indoor season. She placed eighth in Nationals with a height of 12-06.00. 

At only 19 years-of-age and just a freshman at Missouri Southern, Emily Presley already believes she’s proof that you can make it.

Presley’s parents didn’t attend college, her older brother is in prison, and one of her sisters is a heroin addict. Presley says her biggest challenge in life wasn’t overcoming a torn posterior cruciate ligament in her knee or breaking her lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) in high school. Her biggest challenge was becoming something that her family wasn’t.

Presley’s upbringing has been tough and wearisome as she’s battled not falling victim to what she’s seen her loved ones fall victim too.

“When you’re surrounded by that [drugs/crime] your whole entire life, it’s easy to get involved in it,” said Presley. “There was one point in time in my life when I thought that would be me.”

Presley wasn’t meant to succumb to her family’s deficiencies. The freshman pole vaulting standout contributes her success today to the roller coaster life of her brother. Witnessing her brother struggle first hand reminds her every day that she wants to be better than not just him but her family.

“Seeing my brother go through what he went through and where he is now, it definitely every day reminds me to take responsibly for myself and my actions,” said Presley, “It only takes one time for you to mess up your whole life. Just being around that and seeing it, you can realize that it only takes one time.”

Presley is one hell of an athlete. Go to her Facebook page and you’ll see a video of her running a route against a Southern football player and scoring. If she could choose another sport to play she would with a straight face and without hesitation say basketball, surprisingly enough. 

Long before setting the then Southern pole vaulting record at 12-07.50 on Jan. 23, 2016 in the MSSU Open, Presley was a feisty basketball player. She played basketball for 10 years before realizing that she relied too much on her teammates.

Ultimately, she chose pole vaulting (track & field) over basketball because she could control the outcome.

“Some people don’t work as hard as you do,” Presley said about playing team oriented sports. “In basketball you have to rely on other people. Pole vaulting is a more personal sport, I control everything.”

There are three things that motivate Presley to work as hard as she does. One and two would be her senior teammates Amber White (jumps/sprints) & Melanie Bower. Presley could only name White as someone she knows who works harder than her. Bower, a senior pole vaulter who owns the Southern pole vaulting record (13-01.75) and finished second in nationals, pushes Presley to want to get better everyday.

“Melanie really pushes me in competition. When she beats me, it’s going to be in my head. I need to pick it up. I’m sure when I beat her, she’s wants to pick it up too,” said Presley on her friendly competition with Bower.

Presley’s third motivation is the possibility of missing her opportunity.

“I wake up every morning and I ask myself is this enough. It’s not enough! I’m only jumping 12-11.00. I need to be jumping 13 or 14 ft. I just don’t want to miss the opportunity.”