Ali Munson continued her pole vaulting career at Princeton University after graduating from Benet Academy in 2017. Justin Cornwell checks in on her status in this Where Are They Now, presented by Molly Maids of the Aurora Naperville Area.
Rising To The Challenge
Different sports and different athletes can produce a wide variety of results depending on the athlete’s natural ability and work ethic. Sometimes a person needs to being training for a sport or event at a young age if they ever hope to perform at the highest level. And sometimes an athlete can find tremendous success very quickly despite not even attempting the event or skill until high school.
Former Benet Academy pole vaulter Ali Munson falls into the latter category. The Redwing track star did not begin her vaulting career until she arrived at Benet. But despite being a novice, Munson was able to rise to the challenge whenever the bar was raised, literally and figuratively.
A former gymnast, Ali Munson began her vaulting career almost by accident during her freshman year.
Coach Scott Brooks and the rest of the track and field staff would soon be thrilled with her decision. In just her second full season as a pole vaulter in 2015, Munson won the Downers Grove North sectional with a height of 11 feet, 8 inches. The height not only won the meet by nearly two feet, but it was the 2nd best qualifying height in the state. Proving that it was no fluke, the BA sophomore won her first state medal by taking the 6th place spot on the podium at the 3A state meet.
The following year, Benet girls track and field dropped down to the 2A level for state completion, immediately placing Munson as the favorite to win the state championship. The junior lived up to the hype, winning another sectional with a height of 12 feet, 8 inches as the Redwings won the Lisle sectional title as a team. At the state meet at Eastern Illinois, the competition was just as tough in 2A as it was in 3A, but Ali again raised the bar on the biggest stage. Her state final height of 12 feet, 9 inches not only won her the 2A state championship, it was also the top height for any class on the day by 6 inches.
As a senior in 2017, Munson made her vaults look easy, setting new meet records throughout the season and winning her third sectional title at Downers Grove South at 12 feet, 4 inches. Benet was bumped back up to class 3A for the 2017 state meet, but Munson was unfazed. Despite leveling up to compete with the biggest schools in the state, the Redwing standout won her 2nd consecutive state championship. The height of 12’3 was not a new PR, but was enough for another first place medal. Munson graduated from Benet as the first back-to-back state champion in girls track and field history. Her vault of 12’9 in 2016 remains tied for the 7th best height in IHSA history.
Like many Benet Academy athletes, Munson thrived in the classroom in addition to athletics, and was admitted to the Ivy League to continue her pole vault career.
Now a junior at Princeton University, the former Redwing has continued to improve and battle through adversity en route to becoming one of the best pole vaulters Princeton has ever produced.
Munson got off to a solid start during her freshman indoor track season, finishing in 2nd in her very first collegiate indoor meet at the Princeton New Year’s Invitational. During her sophomore campaign, a back injury suffered during the indoor season cost her two months of competition. Sidelined until late April 2019, Munson retuned better than ever at the Ivy League Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Tiger sophomore set at new PR with a height of 3.85 meters and finished as the Ivy League runner up, while moving up into the top ten all time Princeton outdoor pole vault heights.
The 2020 indoor season was Munson’s best in her collegiate career. After hitting 3.85 meters again at the Princeton Indoor Invitational, the junior set a new PR one week later at the Ivy League Indoor Track & Field Championships. Hitting 4 meters for the first time left Munson speechless and led to a 2nd place spot on the podium. The 4 meter mark was not only a career high, but the 4th best height in Princeton indoor history.
Just as Ali Munson was reaching her peak performance with outdoor track on the horizon, the 2020 spring season was cancelled for Princeton and all collegiate athletes across the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately for Ivy League athletes like Ali, the Ivy League will not be granting its spring sport athletes the extra year of eligibility that the rest of Division I athletes will have the ability to receive for next season.
Fortunately for Munson, she is only a junior and still has one year of eligibility to end her collegiate pole vaulting career on high note. Despite a late start into the world of pole vaulting, talent, perseverance, and a desire for greatness allowed Alexandra Munson to soar to heights never reached by a Benet Academy track athlete.
Check out other stories like Munson’s in our Athlete Profiles!