Above and Beyond

Pole-vaulter Alyson Hasty was determined not to  attend Vanderbilt because it’s so close to home— but sometimes life has  other plans.

Pole-vaulter Alyson Hasty was determined not to attend Vanderbilt because it’s so close to home— but sometimes life has other plans.

By the time she got to high school, Alyson Hasty was nearly burned out on gymnastics. She had been training as a gymnast since she was a tyke, and when her sophomore year arrived, she’d had enough.

“I’d been a gymnast forever,” Hasty says. “I quit my sophomore year and wanted to do something else. My coach said, ‘You should try pole vaulting because gymnasts are usually good at it.’”

A year later she was winning championships in the pole vault for Brentwood Academy. During her junior year she cleared 11 feet 3 inches and set the regional record. She won the state championship that year in a jump off. She vaulted 11-4 her senior year, winning the state championship again.

During the summers she was trained by noted Nashville track and field coach Bill Ethridge. “A lot of kids from private schools would come to work with Bill,” she says. “It was really fun to have a small group of people who weren’t necessarily from my school to work out with.”

Ethridge passed away before Hasty’s high school career was over, but his network of coaches in the track and field community had become aware of Hasty and her rise to pole-vaulting prominence. One of those coaches was Clark Humphreys, an assistant track and field coach at Vanderbilt—just a hop, skip and jump from Hasty’s hometown of Brentwood, Tenn.

As it turns out, Humphreys shared another connection with Hasty: He too had won state high school championships in the pole vault as a student at Brentwood Academy.

“When I first started thinking about her, I truly did not think of that connection,” says Humphreys. “An old teammate of mine, who is an assistant coach at Brentwood Academy, was the one who brought it to my attention that the boys’ school record holder could coach the girls’ school record holder.”

Convincing Hasty to stay close to home was a challenge. As with many young people, she was interested in putting some distance between herself and her hometown. “My junior year I thought this was the only place where I would not come,” she says. “My parents always wanted me to come to Vanderbilt. Because they wanted me to come so much, I thought I didn’t want to come. But things just worked out.”

Alyson’s mother, Alyssa Hasty, PhD’99, is an associate professor and researcher in the molecular physiology and biophysics department at Vanderbilt. Her father, Alan Hasty, is an executive with Nissan. Except for a two-year stint in Japan as a young child, Alyson has always lived in this area.

“I had talked to UT a little bit and a few smaller schools,” she says of her decision-making process. During her junior year Hasty was mistakenly listed as a sophomore in a local newspaper report about her state championship. “That kind of messed things up because if you’re a sophomore, schools can’t talk to you. I don’t know if things would’ve been different if I’d been listed correctly. Coach Humphreys started to talk to me, and it seemed like a really good fit. I came on a visit and loved it.”

As do all Vanderbilt freshmen, Hasty lives in The Commons, the university’s residential community for first-year students. “I’m in a triple,” she says of the accommodations. “Both of the other girls are from here, too. One of them is a soccer player, and the other one went to school with my boyfriend in high school. It was just a crazy thing, but we all wound up blending perfectly.”

Hasty is majoring in child development, so being housed on the Peabody campus in The Commons is a bonus. “My classes are about a five-minute walk from my door.” She has spent summers teaching gymnastics to preschoolers. “I love children. I’d love to do some kind of family counseling or something in that area,” she says of life after Vanderbilt.

Life close to home has worked out well, too. She has the out-of-the-nest space she wanted and more. “It’s been really good,” she says. “It’s also been nice on weekends to be able to go home right down the road.”

Weekend trips home are few and far between this spring, however, as track and field is in full swing. “In high school there was some indoor competition, but not much. In college you have indoor and outdoor. They back up to each other. We came back from Christmas break a few days early and had our first meet that next weekend. For the most part, we’re traveling almost every weekend.”

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