Pole vaulting has become so much more than just a hobby or sport for Stephen F. Austin State University junior, Demi Payne.
Starting out at Kansas with All-American honors, it was the week before Big 12's when Payne received news that would forever change her life.
“Needless to say, my mind was a little jumbled. Yeah, it was a crazy moment,” Payne said.
Payne was pregnant with a little baby girl who would later be introduced to the world October 22 as Charlee Taylor.
“I was scared, but with all the support, I somehow had this ease in me, and I knew it was going to be okay,” Payne said.
While bringing a baby into the picture of a young girl's dreams would often times put those aspirations to a halt, doubt admittedly grew in Payne's mind she said.
However, it was the support of her father who also jumped in college at Baylor, setting an NCAA record along the way, that gave her the push she needed to keep jumping higher. It was him who got her back on the runway just five days after her delivery.
“As time went along, and just being surrounded by all of my family who were so encouraging, and my friends, I knew I was going to be able to make a comeback with no doubt,” Payne said.
Payne then made the decision to transfer to SFA to be closer to her family, her support system, and to jump under coach Jeff Erickson. Erickson has known Payne since she was three months old and witnessed her journey of jumping for Charlee.
“I feel like that was the driving factor for her to make a comeback,” Erickson said. “She went from an average worker, to one of the hardest workers you'll ever see.”
Charlee is now 15 months old, and no matter how high Payne sets the bar, her daughter is in the center of it all.
“Charlee's been my ride or die since day one. She motivates me in every single way possible. There's not really a moment when I'm not thinking about her, especially pole vaulting because I'm doing this for her,” Payne said. “I want her to grow up one day and be proud to say that I'm her mom, and that I came back from such an obstacle and overcame a lot of doubt. She's definitely the main reason why I'm doing this.”
With Charlee, Payne has jumped three feet higher since leaving Kansas, and truly believes mom strength is a real thing.
“It's a real thing. It's crazy, it's awesome, and I'm just mind blown honestly,” Payne said.
Erickson promises that there's more to come from Payne in the near future.
“You probably haven't seen the last of her. She's probably just begun,” Erikson said.
Payne is now engaged to Charlee's dad, Thomas Taylor. With her eyes set on competing in the Olympic Games in Rio, Payne said it's hard to plane a wedding at the same time.
For now it's school, pole vaulting, and Charlee.
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