In a few days, pole-vaulter Ashley Nolet ’07 will face her Achilles heel — ECACs at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. Once familiar ground for high school competitions, the venue has become a place of mishaps during an otherwise spectacular college run.
In her freshman year at Yale, Nolet tore her meniscus during a vault at the ECACs and subsequently underwent surgery that kept her off the track for most of the season. Still, she persevered and ended up placing at Heptagonals in the spring.
The following year at the Reggie Lewis Center, the vaulter landed feet first on the bar and sprained her ankle. She was forced to spend the year as a spectator.
Last year, Nolet’s coaches told her she did not have to return to her so-called “tainted place,” but she persisted. In this third attempt she ended up “no heighting” — not clearing the opening height.
Now just days away from her final attempt at the infamous venue, Nolet appears composed and calm. Her passion for her sport is evident now more than ever. And since there is little outside pressure considering that her event does not count for team points, her attempts will be about herself and her sport.
“I’m looking forward to ECACs next weekend,” Nolet said. “It might be good for me to just go and have fun.”
Despite her track record at the Reggie Lewis Center, Nolet has seen many victories at Yale. She started off with a bang as the top freshman vaulter in the Ivy League and carried that momentum over to a career full of first- and second-place finishes. Her fellow teammates have the utmost respect for her and her ability to read her own body, which is especially important in a sport where a few inches can make or break a performance.
“She really knows what she needs to do, and what she needs from other people in order to succeed,” said Bailey Carroll ’10, who was on a high school club team with Nolet before they came to Yale.
Nolet invests much of herself in the success of those around her. Beyond forming relationships with her teammates, she befriends her competitors as well. The senior said it is common for vaulters from different teams to cheer one another on and give each other tips and hints on how to improve. Nolet credits her attitude to the supportive environment of her high-school club training.
“In addition to learning skills for pole vault, we learned how to work in groups and help each other,” said Nolet. “I do better when I can focus on other people doing well.”
Her high school experience also helped develop Nolet’s compassion. She said her club practices gave her a voice and taught her the importance of individuals feeling like they are being heard and supported.
These values do not go unnoticed by her friends, who said she is very loyal and is a keen judge of the emotions of those around her.
“She’s one of those people who makes other people feel good about themselves,” track captain Katie Dlesk ’07 said. “It’s really good feeling like you always have someone in your corner.”
Nolet’s freshman roommate Leah Cann ’07 said that before she met Nolet, she was anxious about coming to school and annoyed that she had a double. But as soon as Cann walked into their room, Ashley gave her a big hug, and they immediately connected and quickly formed a solid bond.
Not surprisingly, family is an important part of Nolet’s life, and she takes care to spend time with those closest to her. In fact, one of her favorite things to do is spend time in her hometown of Lowell, Mass., with her three younger brothers Jonathan, Corey and Curtis.
Nolet also enjoys drawing and writing and is hoping to publish her first children’s book, “Trevor the Tropical Fish,” a story about childhood obesity. Her penchant for creating children’s books may stem from the childlike aspects of her personality that her friends often tease her about. Ashley is often lovingly ribbed for complaining like a little kid, as well as for her habits of making grilled cheese sandwiches and picking the marshmallows out of her cereal.
Though her inner child would enjoy writing and illustrating children’s books, Nolet is unsure of what career she will pursue. She does know that she would like to work with people, possibly focusing on women’s and children’s health.
“I have been lucky in the support that I’ve received from people in my life, and I would like to give some of that back,” she said.
No matter what job she chooses, the active athlete — who has also dabbled in hurdling, diving and trapeze — plans to continue pole vaulting. And, after beefing up her surfing skills last summer, she has a long-term goal that is rather specific for a 21-year-old.
“Wherever my life takes me, I want to live on a beach where I don’t have to wear anything more than a bikini and flip-flops,” Nolet said.