Things Girls Do Exclusive
2016 is a year of firsts for Alexis Weeks, Cabot Arkansas’ star pole-vaulter who qualified for the Olympics after placing third in the pole vault at the U.S Track and Field Trials in July. A freshman at the University of Arkansas, Alexis or Lexi as she is also known, achieved a personal best during the Olympic trials, with a vault of 4.70 meters (15-feet, 5 inches), making her the first American teenager to reach the mark. She is the reigning National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Indoor & Outdoor champion, as well as its South Central Region Field Athlete of the Year. This will be Alexis’ first Olympics, and for the self-confessed nerd, it’s all about putting in the work, whether it’s in the classroom or competitive sport. Alexis will be one to watch at the Olympics this month.
“Something people don't know about me: I'm a huge nerd when it comes to school and class. I graduated Salutatorian of my high school class of 650 kids. I am majoring in chemistry, but I really love math! I have a 4.0 and hope to continue that through the rest of college”— Alexis Weeks
TGD: What inspired you to get into Pole Vaulting?
Alexis: When I was in the 7th grade, my track coach asked if I wanted to try pole vaulting, and I did! I found I was pretty good, and a year later, my sister and I started training at Arkansas Vault Club with Morry Sanders. After that, the rest is history. It was something I loved from the very beginning!
TGD: long have you been training?
Alexis: I have been vaulting for seven years now. In high school, I did many events at track meets; I ran the 100 Hurdles, 400, 4x400, long jumped, and pole vaulted every meet. Once I got to college, I became strictly a pole-vaulter.
TGD: Congratulations on qualifying for Rio. Tell us about the moment you found out you qualified.
Alexis: Going into the trials, I never expected to make the Olympic team. Of course, I wanted to and dreamed of someday becoming an Olympian, but I had NO idea it was going to be for Rio! I felt really great at the trials though. As the meet went on, I guess I got more and more confident in my abilities, and when I cleared 15'3" on my first attempt, I was beyond ecstatic. I knew a first attempt at that bar could possibly put me on the team, but at the same time I had to keep my emotions in check in case I would have to jump at the next bar. Once, I realized I made the team, I started bawling like a baby. But then I still jumped at the next bar, and I was able to clear 15'5" on my second attempt. That was when my coach and I decided to end the day, and I can't explain how shocked I was. The whole day was surreal and a day I'll never forget.
TGD: How have you been preparing for Rio? What does a typical day look like for you?
Alexis: I have been practicing like normal. It's just been Sandi and me for the last month or so training together. We usually begin practice at 11:00 and it usually lasts until 1:00. We vault twice a week most weeks, and we usually have a day or two where we do different drills with poles, and then other days we do speed work. We lift twice a week also. On a typical day, I wake up around 9:00(I love my sleep) and eat breakfast and just chill until practice. I go to practice at 11:00 and then eat lunch when we are done. In the evening, I might just watch TV and hang out with my boyfriend. I really just relax in the evening, but that is about to change once school starts. I eat dinner around 7, and then just do things around the house until I go to bed.
TGD: What advice do you have for those hoping to become Pole Vaulters?
Alexis: The advice that I have for kids who want to become pole vaulters is just work work work. Becoming an Olympian doesn't happen without lots of hard work and dedication. Also, I would really encourage kids to try other events as well. Like I mentioned earlier, I did lots of different events in high school, and I think doing them all only helped me become a better vaulter. Lastly, I would tell them to just do something that they love. I really think there is no point in pole vaulting or in doing whatever sport if you don't love it! That's why we compete and work hard...because it is just so stinking FUN! So, I would tell them to find whatever it is that they just love doing!
TGD: What's your biggest challenge as a full-time undergrad and an Olympic athlete?
Alexis: My biggest challenge as a full time student and full time athlete is time management. I'm a super organized person, and I write EVERYTHING down in my planner. I schedule time for homework that works around class and practice. In doing this, I don't push things off till the very last minute, and it allows me to still have lots of time on the weekends for friends and football. There’s only 24 hours in a day, and a lot of those are taken up by school and track, but when I manage my time wisely, I am able to keep myself from getting too stressed and going too crazy.
TGD: What does competing in the Olympics mean to you and for you?
Alexis: Competing in the Olympics means the absolute world to me. Every athlete dreams of one day becoming an Olympian, and I have been so fortunate to accomplish this goal at such a young age! I can't think of anything better than representing the United States of America at the greatest sporting event in the world. As the days get fewer before I compete in Rio, all I can think about is walking out into that track in the Olympic stadium in front of thousands of people with USA across my chest. It's going to be such a special experience that I know I'm going to remember for the rest of my life.
TGD: Who is your role model within your field?
Alexis: I think my biggest role model would have to be Sandi Morris. Sandi just graduated from Arkansas a year ago, and since then she has become one of the best vaulters EVER. She jumped 16'2.75" this last indoor season, and she just broke the Outdoor American record a week ago. She has been the most supportive and encouraging training partner these last few weeks. She really believed in me that I could make the Olympic team, and she kept encouraging me the whole way. She pushes me, and she is just someone I really look up to. She has become like a big sister to me since we have been training together just her and me, and I am so glad she will be with me in Rio to kind of show me the ropes of competing internationally.
TGD: Who are your biggest supporters and how have they helped you?
Alexis: My biggest supporters are my family members and my high school pole vault coach! My parents have always believed that I would do big things in the pole vault. My twin sister, Tori, is probably my biggest supporter of them all. We are so blessed to get to vault together and travel all over the country competing for Arkansas. I get to encourage and support her, and she does the same for me in return. We have a very special bond, and my life wouldn't be the same without her. My high school coach also is a huge supporter of mine. He has believed in me from the very beginning, and he has pushed and encouraged me the whole way.
TGD: Finish the sentence “Nothing beats -------------------- on a Saturday evening.”
Alexis: Nothing beats cheering the Arkansas Razorback football team to victory on a Saturday evening. I love watching college football, and I love my Razorbacks.