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Up and Over: how Zbilski got her wings

Junior and varsity pole vaulter Amanda Zbilski (J. Zaprazalka).

Junior Amanda Zbilski knows what it’s like to fly.

She knows what it’s like to run full-speed forward, to push herself to the limit, and then take off. Her feet leave the ground as she shoots up over 8 feet into the sky. Zbilski is one of Huntley High School’s eight female pole vaulters, and she has been pole vaulting since freshman year.

Zbilski was inspired to begin pole vaulting when she saw other athletes competing at a meet. Her personal best with the HHS track team is 8 feet, 6 inches, but with practice, she hopes to vault over 9 feet this season.

“It’s a great event to do, especially because there aren’t many [athletes] who do it,” said Zbilski. “You have a better chance of getting scholarships.”

To maintain her skill, Zbilski practices pole vault two to three times a week, usually after practicing sprints along with other members of the track team. She is coached by Tim Essig, who is a substitute for district 158.

“Amanda has gotten a lot faster and stronger [since freshman year],” said Essig. “Her mechanics have also improved a lot.”

During the off season, Zbilski and other pole vaulters stay in shape by working on arm and leg strength.  Continuously exercising on the girlls cross country team in the fall helps Zbilski  adjust quickly to preparations for the 2012 season.

Along with being a pole vaulter, Zbilski is also a sprinter. She also participates in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and the 100- and 200-meter relays. Her track career began in sixth grade at Heineman, and she has been running ever since.

“It’s a lot of work sometimes, but [the effort] is worth it,” said Zbilski.

Due to her hard work and dedication, she made it onto the varsity team for sprinting throughout her freshman year. Zbilski plans on trying some new events this season, including the 400-meter dash.

“I want to try the 400 because there are fewer people, and it’s a greater challenge,” said Zbilski.

Zbilski is also looking forward to getting outside on the track, as all meets so far have been indoors.

“It’s very different to run indoor because the track is smaller,” said Zbilski. “It’s a lot harder to judge distances.”

Even so, she is happy to be reunited with her team. Zbilski says that one of the best things to come out of her years of sports are the friends she has made along the way.

“We’re like a family,” said Zbilski. “We always try to do our best, and before a meet, we don’t want to let each other down.”

As the school population grows each year, that sports family is expanding with each freshman that joins.

The additions to her team not only allow Zbilski to make new friends, but they give her a chance to lead and set an example as well.

“Amanda is a good team leader,” said Essig. “She’s a real positive influence to have working with the younger athletes.”

Essig also stressed Zbilski’s mental and physical toughness, and the fact that she always wants to improve.

Though the track season is just beginning, Zbilski is already in great shape due to another one of her athletic talents— she is a five-time world champion kickboxer.

She began karate when she was 4, and earned her black belt by the age of 11. Since then, she has traveled around the world and competed with many other young kickboxers.

Zbilski lost her first major fight, but she didn’t let that stop her. She has not lost another fight since.

Zbilski is now a part of the U.S. kickboxing team, and if the sport is ever made into an Olympic event, she will be headed for the Olympics.

But despite her promising future in kickboxing, Zbilski still has her heart set on improving her track performance.

“I’m hoping for a scholarship,” said Zbilski. “I really want one for pole vault because it’s such an uncommon sport.”

Her dream is to become a sports manager for a professional team, but she is also considering the possibility of being a physical therapist as well.

Until she can achieve those goals, Zbilski will join the rest of her team in preparations for the upcoming season.

She’ll continue to fly and help others find their wings along the way.

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Holly Baldacci, Author

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