Molly Lederman, M12, had been running, kicking, rolling and tumbling for seven years as a soccer player and gymnast around Newton, Mass., when a friend suggested she have a go at pole vaulting. “Sure, I’ll try that,” Lederman replied. She was 12 years old then. Within three years, she had set the girls’ national indoor record in the event, a distinction she would claim four times before leaving high school.
Speed, strength and body awareness came together in vaulting, a mesh of talents that Lederman found irresistible. Her background in gymnastics was key. First came the full-tilt sprint down the runway and the planting of the tip in the ground. Then, at the top of the fully bending pole, she would find herself upside down in the instant when she prepared to fling herself over the all-too-easily toppled bar. This was a moment when body awareness was critical—no time to be wondering where your elbow or your kneecap were.
Lederman had the touch. As an undergraduate at Yale, she set just about every record possible, including both the indoor and outdoor women’s pole vault records. Sixteen times she was named All-Ivy and six times All-East in the event, and served as captain of the Yale women’s track-and-field squad, galvanizing others on the team. She also represented Yale at three NCAA regional meets and national championships. The time commitment required for training and competing while in college was extensive, about 25 hours per week.
Pole vaulting is tough to carry forward into adult life.“I would love to still do it, but it’s sort of a high-maintenance sport,” Lederman allows. She has found durable value in her years of training nonetheless, like chalk dust that stays on the hands.
At track meets, she says, “everyone does one event, but any points go to the team total. In medicine, you work as a team, but each person’s individual responsibilities and contributions are vital to the overall collaborative effort.”
After she graduated from the School of Medicine in May, Lederman headed off to residency training in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Bruce Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.