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The Final Heat

June 9, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

When asked Thursday if she had any thoughts about being one of the last two student-athletes to compete on behalf of Georgia Tech in this school year, Joanna Wright really didn’t give it much thought.

Coach’s orders, in a way.

The pole vaulter and freshman teammate Julienne McKee, a triple jumper, will compete today in the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, where hurdler Leslie Njoku competed this week.

All other Yellow Jackets in every other sport are finished until next fall. Not that Wright is thinking about that kind of thing. She earned her degree in biology last month, and truth be told she’s not doing a lot of deep thinking these days.

“My coach [Viktor Kirillov] really doesn’t want me to do much of anything [in the seemingly endless down time before competing in a multi-day meet], so I just kind of sit around in the hotel and watch TV and read,” Wright said. “I’ll read whatever, mystery novels, a newspaper or whatever is around.”

Wright said she hadn’t really thought about being the last Jacket to compete this school year, and that should probably not be a surprise. She’s pretty easy going although you might not know it from her competitive streak.

The Winston-Salem, N.C., native took up track & field as a high school freshman in Winston-Salem, N.C., and was almost immediately in the mix in everything she tried – like the long jump, triple jump, hurdles, pentathlon and heptathlon.

She settled on the pole vault, where she’s earned a variety of ACC honors, participated in a couple NCAA championships, and inked her name all over the Tech record book.

Kirillov has tried to help Wright harness her athleticism.

“He’s changed almost every aspect of my vault. Technically, my vault is much better,” she said. “I already had the speed and the strength. I never really was good at technique. I’m not great now, but I’m better. He breaks vaulting down to components, and we do drills for hours and hours and hours on each part.

“He’s been trying to get me to swing upside-down faster, and changing the position of my arms when I take off.

Wright would like to go to graduate school and study public health, but she’s not sure when. She wants to keep at this pole vaulting for a while.

“I’d like to go to the USAs in a few weeks, but I don’t know if I’m qualified yet,” she said. “I don’t know after that. We’ll see. I don’t usually plan far ahead.”

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