Natalie Archer Focuses on Pole Vaulting After an Injury Ends Gymnastics Career


Credit to Kamryn Bell

Junior Natalie Archer vaults through the air with her vaulting stick. Archer has been pole vaulting for the past three years. She made the switch to pole vaulting after leaving gymnastics due to injury.

By Sarah Zimmerman

She spent 13 years pouring her heart and soul into one sport. She clocked in over 24 hours per week at practices for one sport. She dedicated thousands of nights to one sport. Then she was forced to change her sport.

After many years of competitive gymnastics, junior Natalie Archer was forced to quit in 2017 due to spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis is a spinal disorder where a vertebrae slides forward into the bone below it. As Archer pushed her gymnastics career forward, she, unfortunately, also pushed her body to the limit. Gymnastics caused the spondylolisthesis, which, in Archer’s case, caused a risk of paralysis. Because of this, Archer was forced to quit gymnastics.

“There are times where you are just tired of it, but you learn to push through too, especially when there are skills that are also very difficult to get,” former teammate Allie Leary said. “I think it’s definitely helped her in other sports, which are important to her. I think it’s also like she’s probably grown with other people and made friendships with other people and created friendships, but she’s also learned that determination and the drive that you need to have for stuff and I think she’s applied that to other aspects of her life.”

One of the ways Archer has pushed through her injury and applied her determination to other aspects of her life is by focusing more on track since she cannot participate in gymnastics anymore. To strive for pole vaulting success, she attended a pole vaulting camp and plans to vault for St. Louis Pole Vault in order to practice even when track isn’t in season.

“Gymnastics taught me to be determined,” Archer said. “A lot of the time, when I can’t do something right, I get really, really annoyed, so I just have to keep trying and with gymnastics. I had to keep doing that…so now that I pole vault, I keep trying and trying again…I’m trying to do pole vault in college so I really am focusing more on improving myself in pole vault so that I can do that in college.”

Although her dream has now shifted from participating in gymnastics at Mizzou to competing in pole vault in the University of Kentucky, Archer continues to work hard and stays optimistic about her future.

“I think it’s been a journey…a journey of emotions, being nervous, being sad, but also having good experiences out of that as well,” Archer’s mother Donna Archer said. “I think it’s kind of like life in general. You learn from things that happen and then move on. We do miss the gymnastics, but at the same time, I think she’s enjoyed the track and it’s been another great experience for her. I’m just proud of what she does. She works her tail end off to try to be successful and I think that’s awesome.”