Balancing Act

Pole vaulter Lexi Baumgartner discusses the heights and depths of her Monmouth experience.

If you catch Lexi Baumgartner walking across campus, you might want to hurry and take a selfie with her. She doesn’t stay grounded for long. Baumgartner is often catapulting herself high above the surface or researching areas deep below sea level.

The junior marine environmental biology and policy major and pole vaulter for the Hawks track and field program says she’s enjoying an eclectic student-athlete experience at Monmouth, and she’s optimistic the heights and depths of her time here will lead to one result: making a difference.

Flying high comes naturally to me.

There was a slight fear factor early on with pole vaulting, but I was used to being in the air. I competed in gymnastics for 10 years before shifting to track and field. Holding a 12-foot pole and flinging yourself over a bar does, however, require a lot of trust in yourself and coaches.

Where my academic interests lie.

Marine biology is a very broad topic of study. I’d like to research migration patterns—tagging fish, tracking why they move a certain way, and how humans impact their environment and affect behaviors. My generation has a lot of data to work with, and we continue to do research, so we’re now trying to reverse any negative effects the marine environment has endured.

Summers are for scholarship.

I spent last summer conducting research with two other students through the Urban Cost Institute’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program. Our study focused on the ocean’s current and its impact on a salt marsh in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. We used doppler technology to measure velocity and determine the threshold for sediment movement. The currents were strong enough to move sediment along the northwestern side, which was causing the salt marsh to split in half.

We are family.

The track and field team is like a big family, and the jumpers are a very close-knit group. The guys are like my older brothers and the girls are like my sisters. At meets, it feels like I’m cheering for my own family.

Never underestimate the power of routine.

I normally listen to Lady Gaga before meets. Her music is upbeat, and she has a different image than other artists; I like that about her. When I’m on the runway before jumps, I take deep breaths, close my eyes, and block out any distractions or negative thoughts. Then I count down my steps during my approach. There’s a sense of relief when I clear the bar and then excitement to continue competing.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Both of my parents have raced in triathlons and Iron Man competitions, so they know how much work goes into training. They have always been very supportive, but they also motivate me. They usually text me after meets to tell me how well I did but will also ask, “Where do you think you can do better?”

When I’m not above the bar or researching below sea level.

I love to cook and bake. My grandmother is German and passed down dessert recipes for sweets and breads. My mom and I make 15 types of cookies for the holidays. I also love painting. When I have no homework, I pick up the brush and start painting. It’s a way for me to relax.

My ideal dinner date.

If I could have dinner with one person, I’d pick British broadcaster and biologist David Attenborough. He’s a naturalist, and what he’s done with his career is so cool. He’s been up close and personal with so many animals, and I’d love to hear about all his experiences.

We all scream for ice cream.

We don’t have Carvel where I’m from (Alexandria, Virginia), so when I’m at Monmouth, I love getting peanut butter chocolate sundaes from there.