CHEYENNE – Amira Cummings’ rise to greatness is one cemented in a never-ending passion, heaps of adversity and forged through an unwavering determination to succeed.
Throughout her childhood, Cummings always had a love for gymnastics. Then, when she reached seventh grade, her physical education coach approached her about giving pole vault a try.
“I had no idea what it was,” Cummings recalled.
Nor did she realize how pole vaulting would change her life. The way Cummings puts it, she loves to fly.
“With my past passion in gymnastics, it was something different, but also similar to what I’ve done,” she said. “Ever since I got off the ground for the first time, I’ve just loved it.”
Cummings was a curious junior high student-athlete back then. She has emerged as one of the state’s best ever since.
The Cheyenne East junior won pole vault (11 feet), the 100-meter dash (12.98 seconds) and was part of the winning 4x100 relay squad (51.16 seconds) at the Wiseman Invitational last week in Burns. Those efforts earned Cummings Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
Cummings’ performance at the Wiseman Invite was worth waiting for. She has dealt with injuries during her entire prep career. As a freshman, she dislocated her elbow after falling into the box during the indoor track season. As a sophomore, she dealt with a few hip injuries during the indoor season. This spring, she’s had a few “hiccups” with her left knee.
But the Lady Thunderbirds standout hasn’t let injuries interrupt the success she has enjoyed in 2019.
“I’ve still been doing great at vaulting,” she said.
Cummings qualified for the Class 4A state track and field meet in pole vault at
the first meet of the season at the Brighton Mercury Invitational back on March 20 after clearing 11 feet. That mark is the highest she’s cleared this spring.
“She’s so strong,” East coach Travis Eldridge said. “She’s really explosive. She works out extremely hard in the weight room. For her size, she is just really strong. I think that’s what helps her be so successful.”
Cummings also has qualified for the state meet in the 100, as well as with East’s sprint medley relay and the 4x1 relay squads.
“It really has given me a lot of confidence in where I am at in the state, and where I think I’m able to be going up against competition that I’ve been going up against since my freshman year and seeing where I’ve grown,” Cummings said.
She credits her success this season to overcoming the adversity she’s dealt with, particularly the injuries she’s gone through. Cummings’ sophomore season was the toughest of her three years at East, she admitted.
“Last year, I had a few issues mentally,” she said. “I just had been out of it for so long and been inconsistent with it. It’s like I had no time to really sit down and think about what I needed to do.
“This past summer, I really pushed through, and with the help of (East assistant coach Philip) Raybuck and family, I was able to build up my mental toughness. And this year, it’s really helped.”
Staying healthy has been a priority for Cummings, who joined East’s dance team last fall. The payoff of participating in another sport has been huge for her mentally.
“I have a little bit more stamina and have been in (better) shape because of that,” she said. “That’s definitely helped.”
Eldridge and his coaching staff have been cautious with Cummings this season, sometimes holding her out of competition as a preventative measure so she can be at her best beginning with the 4A regional meet, which begins Friday in Sheridan.
“Anytime she starts to get sore, we try to back her off, or if she feels that something’s a little bit out of sorts or (she has) a little bit of a nagging injury, we pull her and have her sit and try to rest,” Eldridge said. “We figured out that that’s the biggest thing is rest, to get her healed up and back on track.”
Cummings was held out of pole vault for the last couple of weeks leading up to last week’s Wiseman Invite for precautionary reasons, and she was itching to get back to competing. Based on the results, it seems the move paid off.
“Winning it last week was a pretty big deal for her,” Eldridge said. “She was frustrated last week with not being able to get up on the pole, and so she talked to me and a couple other coaches about that. So, for her to have some success last weekend was crucial.”
Having already qualified for state, and sitting among the top pole vaulters in the state, Cummings still feels like she has more to prove.
She welcomes the pressure.
“I feel better under a lot of pressure,” she said. “It actually kind of helps me in competition. Yeah, I do have pressure, but it’ll help me in the long run, anyway.”
Others recognized for their efforts include:
n Kyla Bush, girls track and field, Cheyenne Central: The junior won both shot put (40 feet, 4 inches) and discus (126-9) at the Wiseman Invitational in Burns.
n Aiden Carroll, boys track and field, Burns: The senior won pole vault (12 feet, 10 inches) and the 300-meter hurdles (41.06 seconds) at the Wiseman Invite.
n Eli Cole, boys golf, East: Cole fired a 3-under-par 69 to win the Torrington Invitational. His score also helped the Thunderbirds win the team title.
n Makyleigh Howard and Zoe Lam, girls soccer, Central: Howard, a junior, scored two goals and assisted on three others to help the Lady Indians beat Laramie and Cheyenne South.
Lam, a sophomore, scored four goals and dished out two assists in those matches.
n Averi Kastens, girls soccer, East: The senior scored three goals to help the Lady Thunderbirds beat Laramie and Cheyenne South.
n Jadon Lopez, boys soccer, Central: The senior forward scored three goals to help the Indians to a pair of victories.
n Shelby Thurin, girls track, Pine Bluffs: The sophomore won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the Southeast Wyoming Athletic Conference meet Saturday in Lusk. She finished the 1,600 in 6 minutes, 17.43 seconds and the 3,200 in 14:09.36.
Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.