Athlete Spotlight: Grace Hotchkiss of Bishop England

When did you first start competing in the sport, and do you recall any of your childhood events?
I started pole vaulting my freshman year of high school after competing as a gymnast for five years. My transition was natural because my best event was vault in gymnastics.

Was there a certain moment when you realized you'd be able to compete at such a high level?
I realized I could compete at a high level at the Coaches Classic meet sophomore year. As soon as I started warming up I started to have a little fever, but there was a great tailwind and I wanted to get a PR. After warm up I took a nap on the infield while waiting for my opening height, but I still felt awful. I pushed through and used the biggest pole I could from a shorter step and won 1st with a jump of 12' 7." After a grueling 4x400-meter relay a couple hours later I was in bed sick for a week, but it was worth it.

What are some bumps in the road that you've encountered when it comes to training for different events during the season?
My coach, Tom Reagan is not a Bishop England coach, he coaches for many schools in the area and we all meet at Mt. Pleasant Recreation Center. It is hard to balance practicing here and at BE because I still trained for the 4x400-meter relay as well. Sometimes I would go to BE track practice first and warmup and do some of the workout, and then go to my other practice after so I could get some jumps in.

How did COVID impact your training as you prepared for the season?
COVID cancelled my junior season, which was stressful for me because that meant that I would be recruited based off of my heights from sophomore year. I was also going to attend New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York which were cancelled too which was very upsetting.

If you had to pick: Track and field or cross country, and why?
Track, I don't do cross country.

Where are you going to college? If you have already committed, what made you choose them?
I committed to UNC Chapel Hill in November. I'm so excited to be a part of the track team there. Carolina has an incredible sports program and the track coaching staff is building up a great team. Just my interaction up until this point has been completely supportive and positive during this crazy COVID experience. I also wanted the challenge of going to an academically rigorous institution as well, so Chapel Hill is the total package for me!

Recent signings

Is there another track event you wish you were good at? What is appealing about it?
I would love to be an amazing sprinter and be a part of a competitive 4x100-meter relay team because the handoffs are exciting!

What are some hobbies and interests you have outside of running?
I have been a foster parent for cats and kittens at my local animal shelter for the past five years, and I have four pets of my own as well.

Who is your role model, and why?
My role model is my coach, Tom Reagan because he has created my team based off the ideal that it's not about your PR it is about who you are as a person and the way you treat your teammates. I would not be the person I am today without him in my life.

Pole vault rankings: Hotchkiss ranked fifth

Everyone has a bucket list, so give us some of the things on your list!
I would love to see the northern lights, I want to go scuba diving at The Great Barrier Reef and to get better at surfing.

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What is the best advice you have received?
The best advice that I have received is to not worry about what everyone else is doing or vaulting because you can only control what you do.

What is your favorite pre-race snack, tradition, etc.?
If my meet is in the morning then you can definitely find me eating bacon and a bagel before.

If you could do a sport other than XC/Track, what sport would it be, and why?
I would love to still be doing gymnastics because there are so many different events and skills to work on.