Words by Aaron Boettcher
Growing up, Madison Evans wouldn’t have described herself as the greatest athlete. She focused on gymnastics before trying a variety of other sports until she finally found the one that was right for her. Her parents had always told her it was important to stay active and to be involved with a team, but Evans couldn’t quite ever find the place that suited her best.
That is, until her Grade 11 year, when the track and field coach at Ernest Manning High School brought in a pole vaulting coach.
That’s when Evans thought: “Heck yeah sign me up.”
Madison took a risk on pole vaulting, figuring her gymnastic skills could translate to quick success.
“I thought my background in gymnastics would help but I wasn’t a great gymnast either,” Evans admits. “But I just wanted to try it because it looked fun”
Soon enough, she fell in love with the environment of the sport.
“Track was always a place where I had this awesome friend group,” Evans says. “It was always a good time and a fun experience.”
Enjoying time with friends outside of the classroom in high school and taking a risk on a sport that looked fun ended up punching Evans’ a ticket to Trinity Western University.
“Track and field was the main reason why I ended up here at TWU.”
However, looking back at her decision to become a Spartan and how that choice changed her life, Evans credits something far bigger than track and field for bringing her here.
“God brought me here because I really had no clue what I wanted to do.”
Once arriving at TWU in the fall of 2014, Evans wasn’t sure where she would fit in on the track team. Even with a bit of vaulting in her background, she wasn’t even sure what event she would be doing with the Spartans or even what classes she would take. It was an intimidating first year for Evans.
“I was kind of slow in Grade 12 and I had no idea what type of events they were going to put me in here,” she says. “I remember looking at the other first years who were coming in and I was so intimidated.”
Little did she know she was quickly improving and making herself known in the pole vaulting community across the Canada West conference.
“I had so little knowledge of pole vault that I didn’t even recognize that I was improving.”
In Evans’ first year, she started with a personal best of 3.20m, but over the course of the season she improved in every meet, before eventually reaching 3.81m.
After only taking up the sport because it looked fun and her friends were doing it, suddenly Evans made nationals in her first year at TWU, where she ultimately cleared another persona best and finished seventh.
Recalling her first year, Evans begins to drift from talking about the performance numbers of pole vaulting and begis talking abut what track and field has taught her as a person. After Evans’ first year at TWU, her mindset changed and she began to think a different way.
“My performance does not define me,” she says.
As she moved into her second year Evans, she found herself seeking something bigger than just pole vaulting and something more than a once-a-week faith. She was looking for something that would help her develop a more personal relationship with God.
“Growing up I would go to church on Sundays and then wouldn’t think about it during the rest of the week,” Evans says. “I had a pretty lukewarm faith coming in.”
When Evans went to her first chapel and saw people worshiping with their hands in the air praising God, she couldn’t help but think: “What is this? It was almost like being introduced to Jesus again for the first time”
Madison then dove into her faith and began to come to some realizations about sports and her life. Initially coming to TWU was about performing and finding her place on the track team, that took the back seat when Evans relationship with God sprung to the next level,
“When I came in it was definitely about ‘I want to do well,’” Evans says. “Coming to TWU, I realized why I am doing pole vault. I have been given these gifts by God and I can use this to glorify Him”
Evans has a new approach to the sport and one than means more than any number could for her. Mirelle Martens, who is Evans roommate and fellow fifth-year track and field teammate, can attest to how much Evans has grown in her faith.
“She is so strong in her faith right now and she lives it out in all her relationships," Martens says. “You can see God’s love pour out in everything she does, including pole vaulting.”
Evans’ pole vaulting coach Jamie Sinclair and her share a unique relationship. Sinclair and Evans were teammates for two years. Jamie went on to finish his time at TWU but came back a year later to coach pole vaulting. Evans and Sinclair have now had both the teammate dynamic and the player-coach dynamic.
“In her first year she would always participate and was very open to discuss things within our team bible study and was curious about the difference in denominations.” Sinclair recalls. “Now, she leads the women’s track and field bible study and is one of the top leaders on the women’s side.
“She is one of the few athletes that will talk to you in the car or at training camp and will have a spiritual conversation. She is so open about those conversations now.”
Each year at TWU, Evans has grown in her faith substantially, learning lessons on the way and becoming closer to God. Through the years she has found herself focusing on performance, whether that be athletically or academically. As an athlete this is a very hard task, blending your performance with your faith. Evans does it exceptionally and is continually working on it.
“When you start focusing on results that’s when the sport can define you,” Evans says. “God has blessed me with so much so the only response for me is to use this as a way to say I did not do this by myself.”
Evans is extremely grateful for her experience at TWU.
“This is all a gift from God.”
When talking about this upcoming U SPORTS championship, where she enters the competition as the second-ranked vaulter in the country, Evans simplifies her approach.
“I want to do my best and glorify God”
In an interview early in the season, she had indeed suggested a pole vaulting goal. “It would be really awesome to jump over four metres.” At the Golden Bear Open on Jan. 18, she did just that, clearing 4.00m.
Now, she has her sights set on finishing her TWU career with one final podium pursuit at the national championships.
However, her focus remains much larger than any bar she’ll clear.
For Evans, the most important part about being a Spartan is simply demonstrating God’s glory by using the gifts He has given her.