Local training center produces world class athletes

Local training center produces world class athletes

Jonesboro, AR - Taking a drive down Highway 226, you may not even notice it. An unassuming warehouse with Bell Athletics affixed on the front, located across from a bean field. But inside, athletes from all across America look to vault their way to history. Literally.

Jonesboro is home to one of the premier pole vaulting training centers in America, and even pumps out Olympians in the sport, including 2012 Olympic Pole Vaulter Becky Holliday.

Holliday previously lived on the west coast and spent time at the U.S. Olympic Committee Training center in Chula Vista, California, but found herself falling short of her goal to make the Olympics.

"There were two really good pole vaulters," Holliday said. "They were female and they were beating me in every competition. They would beat me in nationals and they would make the world and Olympic teams."

The difference, it turned out, simply came down to coaching.

"They were always being coached by Earl [Bell] at those big meets, and they were beating me so I was like, 'I want to go where the best girls in the world are, the best coach in the world is,'" Holliday said. "I finally got fed up getting beat by Earl's girls."

She packed up and moved to Jonesboro, and looked to change her fortunes.

"I started training with Earl Bell about a year before the 2012 Olympics and then I finally made the team," Holliday said.

By making the Olympic team, Holliday joined a long list of Olympic pole vaulters to come through Jonesboro.

"It's so crazy that this little town of Jonesboro has had, what, like is it 15 Olympians?" Holliday said. "I think close to that. That says a lot about [Bell]."

While, according to Holliday the coach is the biggest difference, Bell likes to think Jonesboro also plays a role in why his athletes are so successful.

"I make the joke that you are coming to train in the middle of a bean field in Craighead County, so I know they are committed," Bell said. "They aren't wanting to go to Las Vegas or some party town. They are coming here to train."

With the trials for 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro right around the corner, the training Holliday and other athletes have done will be tested. Make it through the Olympic trials, and Rio is in sight.

"Hopefully, this would be a second chance to be a two-time Olympian, which sounds cooler than Olympian, I think," Holliday said.

So while Jonesboro may be over 5,000 miles away from Rio De Janeiro, their connection may be closer than you think.