DERIDDER, La. (KPLC) - DeRidder native Kimmie Rushford didn't have to look far to become inspired to start pole-vaulting after growing up playing soccer, softball and running cross country. Rushford's older sister, Jacqueline, helped pave the way.
“Watching her being a hard worker as she was, she’s the most disciplined person I’ve ever met and the hardest worker that I’ve ever met,” Rushford said of her older sister. "Her being a role model for me really pushed me to excel in everything that I do.
During Rushford's time as a Lady Dragon, she won three state titles and set a school record with a pole vault of 12 feet, six inches.
“It was incredible," admitted Rushford. "I didn’t even think I had it in me to win a state championship. That just wasn’t even in question when I started pole vaulting. I was doing it just because it was fun and then when I got to do it competitively during the summers I realized this was something that I really want to be good at.”
After being recruited by multiple Division I schools, Rushford ultimately decided to sign with UL Lafayette and it was there where she formed a new relationship that would turn things around for her.
“As soon as I found my faith, everything started falling into place," Rushford said. "That rang true for all of my practices and I just knew each time I picked up a pole my junior year I was going to jump out of my mind and do so well.”
And just like her junior year at DeRidder, a pole vault of 12 feet, six inches would propel her to the top of the Sun Belt Conference in 2019.
“God just took me and literally threw me over the bar," said Rushford of her championship pole vault. "That’s really what happened because my freshman and sophomore year I kind of jumped okay. But, the consistency of how high I was jumping throughout my junior year was the best year of college for sure.”
Though the pandemic put a dent in Rushford’s senior campaign, she was still able to earn her degree in psychology this month. With the NCAA recently voting to award spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, Rushford plans to take advantage.
“Oh no, I couldn’t do that if I tried. I’m definitely coming back," Rushford said. "That’s all I’ve been thinking about. I’m going to choose my graduate school based on whatever education I think is best fit. Then the plan is once I get accepted I’ll give the coach wherever I’m going a phone call if it’s not UL and say ‘Hey! This is what I want to do I have a year of eligibility left even if I can walk on, I would love to be part of the team.’ Just because I would like to say goodbye to it well.”