Kathryn Bassette

A Higher Pursuit

Written by Klara Holscher

Kathryn Bassette entered with the class of 2020 eager to explore and try new things, but also aware of the need to find structure. “The ability to revel in an ordered life reveals character,” she wrote in a blog post not long into her time at Hillsdale. Her appreciation for order is due in part to her athleticism. After years of training as a pole vaulter, she is now part of the Hillsdale track team and finds that rigorous training propels her to greater heights.

“I focus on three things,” Kathryn said. “Track, school, and sleep. It’s kind of like this trinity, and there are other circling things on the outskirts.”

So, the rigors of track come with their necessary limitations, but Kathryn lives by the words, “Whatever you do, don’t do it halfway.” She knows that living this way sometimes requires that she sacrifice minor interests in order to learn to excel in what she really loves.

She also bends the common perception of a pole vaulter.

“When I’m out and about, like in the cafeteria, and people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a pole vaulter,” she said. “That surprises them, probably first off because of my height. I’m five feet, one and three-quarter inches. On a good day, I’m five-two.”

The height factor could be seen as a disadvantage, and there are days when Kathryn has to remind herself of why she keeps going. “What motivates me is the process of struggle and triumph,” she said. “I haven’t felt like I’ve really experienced triumph yet, and that’s been hard to work through. Granted, I’m a freshman, but there is definitely the desire to do more, to contribute more, to prove to myself what I always thought I was…am. I’m always trying to work through the mental doubts.” 

She said that before every jump, she confronts mentally the struggle she’s about to face.

“Accepting that challenge and running at it head-on are exactly what leads to overcoming the obstacle,” she said. “It’s the same way with piano. Before you play the piece, you have to look it over and prepare yourself for the hard spots.” She reminded me that in anything, if you’ve already experienced a wall and gotten over it, not to look back unless it’s for a brief moment to recognize that you did get over it.

A few days after our conversation, I wandered for the first time into the middle of a track meet. Kathryn had invited me to watch her vault at 8:00 p.m. I managed to avoid walking straight through a throng of runners and found my way to the bleachers by the pole-vaulting event. Several competitors ran down the narrow track and leapt to triumph or disappointment.

At last Kathryn stood in the distance, long pole balanced deftly against her small frame, and then she began to run. Sure and certain, her steps pounded toward me, past me, onto the vault pit. With a swift thrust, she stuck her pole and spun into the air, swung upside down in a final moment of concentrated effort and determination, and cleared the wall that rose up to meet her.

When Kathryn faces down her challenges, she does it for more than personal victory.

“When I vault, tipping instantly upside down, I pray that the pounding rhythm of my feet and the lunging whoosh of my body and the uncoiling pop of my pole is a kind of music for the world to hear,” she blogged a few weeks ago. “I vault for more than myself. I vault so others might have the chance to hear their story in the music I create. A story of new heights…of pursuing something higher than myself.”

Klara HolscherKlara Holscher, ’17, is an English major from Hobart, New York. She possesses a quirky sense of humor, an orange car, and a terrible sense of direction. It remains to be seen whether or not these elements will lead to a career in writing, but regardless, they should afford some amusement along the way.