Junior pole vaulter Natasha Kolbo brought home a second-place finish from the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in early February – and an injury. There was a hole in the pit at the competition, and when she stepped on it she rolled her ankle.

“I had so much adrenaline that I didn’t realize how bad it was, so I competed on it. The next day I couldn’t really walk, and the day after that, it got even worse,” Kolbo said.

The past weeks that Kolbo spent injured have been an impediment in her quest to qualify for the NCAA Championships. With one meet left between now and the championships, Kolbo still has one last chance to forget her injury-related setbacks and claim a spot.

The injury was to her take-off foot, a scenario that’s disastrous for a pole vaulter.

“I couldn’t point my toe all the way and jump off the ground without it sending shocks all the way up my leg,” said Kolbo. “When you can’t take off, you can’t swing, you can’t move your arms and you basically can’t turn over. So you basically lose all aspects of the vault.”

Kolbo is no stranger to injuries that have halted her progress in a sport. When she was in the eighth grade, she had to give up gymnastics because of risks of a permanent injury associated with a bone disease.

“They told me, ‘You either continue to do gymnastics and shatter that bone and lose 85 percent of mobility in your wrist, or quit and sit out till it heals,’” said Kolbo.

Because of that experience, she understands the importance of taking time to heal from your injury and not rushing back to practice rashly.

“Even though it’s painful, it’s better in the long run to just sit for a week, take as much care of it as you can and be ready to go. It’s kind of what you have to do,” said Kolbo.

But not even this ankle injury could keep Kolbo completely away from the sport she loves; but it required some creativity.

Instead of spending time at Drake Stadium working up a sweat, Kolbo spent time at home doing something not many associate with track and field, watching film to develop her mental game.

“You’ll see what mistakes you’re making and after you realize what you need to fix, you take some notes down and try to visualize what you do,” Kolbo said.

The Run for the Dream Indoor Track & Field Invitational in Fresno, Calif. on Feb. 17 was a testing ground for Kolbo. Despite a disappointing showing, where she failed to clear any height, she knew from that point on she was comfortable enough to continue competing.

At the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track & Field Championship in Seattle, Kolbo finished with a height of 12 feet, 11 inches for a share of sixth place alongside her teammate, junior pole vaulter Courtney Reginato, who had an ankle injury of her own a week and a half ago during practice.

“Pole vault is a dangerous sport. It’s pretty common in pole vault to have an injury. A lot of things could go wrong since it’s a technical sport,” said Reginato.

With Kolbo’s left ankle now completely healed, she is once again able to dedicate time and effort at practice, all with one goal in mind: qualifying for nationals.

“I think jumping 13 feet, 11 inches will get (Kolbo) right into the mix. She’s definitely capable of doing it, and she’s got the right mindset right now,” said jumps coach Anthony Curran.