Earlier this year, 14-year-old Layla Eriksen-Howard jumped out of a plane from 15,000 feet to get mentally prepared for her first national competition as a pole vault jumper.

“I felt like if I could jump from 15,000 feet, I could do anything,” she said.

Layla is the under 16s Queensland champion hailing from Logan.

The skydive must have had some effect because she emerged from the national athletics tournament in Sydney as the fifth best pole vault jumper for her age group in the country.

This was a great achievement for her considering she only started pole vault last July after representing Queensland over several years as a long distance runner.

“I wanted to try something different besides my long distance running,” Layla said.

“But since winning the state championships in March this year and doing well at nationals, I thought I might take it more seriously.”

Layla is confident she can use this platform to do better next year and eventually challenge for the top spot.

“My confidence is there, and I’m making heights I would never imagined I would get to so quickly, but throwing myself in air is exhilarating and daring,” she said.

She said making the switch to pole vault was hard because of how unnatural the movement is.

“There are so many components to make a jump, and it is important to have the confidence to trust my abilities when the pole starts bending,” she said.

Mother Angela Eriksen said it was a big achievement considering the injuries she has had and how little time she has had in the event.

“I do tear up because she’s had knee injuries all year – a good eight months of strength and conditioning training to strengthen her knees,” Angela said.

“I think I was more scared of her racing in the steeple chase and tripping over the water jump than her jumping out of a plane.”

Layla now wants to focus on building on this year’s success, with an eye on climbing the ranks in both the running and pole vaulting.

In the future, she wants to compete internationally and make the Olympics.

For Angela, that is not the be all, end all, but a welcome bonus on the side if Layla gets there.

“Layla has so many years to grow as an athlete and we don’t want her overdoing it and burning out as such a young age,” Angela said.

“But the ride we are on is fun. It brings us so much enjoyment and she amazes us on and off the track as a young female who is determined and hard working.”

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