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FARMINGTON — Kiara Quezada shined time and again on the big stage, constantly eyeing that next major challenge.

The Farmington pole vaulter pulled off a three-peat at the state track and field championships from 2017 to 2019, and she was millimeters away from surpassing the all-time state record of 12 feet, 4 inches in the event in 2019.

Hosting the state track championships, the University of New Mexico had a front row seat to Quezada’s dominance. Quezada will now be there full-time after signing with the NCAA Division I Lobos on Tuesday via athletic scholarship.

The decision was a no-brainer for Quezada because it’ll be a flawless transition.

“I just had to. It’s perfect,” Quezada said. “It just felt so familiar and at home… I won’t be too overwhelmed when I start competing there.”

And nicking the bar during the 2019 championships, and therefore just missing out on becoming the new record-holder in state pole vault for what would’ve been a mark of 12-5, only gives Quezada that extra push she needs bracing for the next level.

“It just drove me more,” Quezada said. “I’m still competing against myself. Regardless of the championships, I just wanted to get better… It makes me more motivated.”

Quezada said UNM liked how she attacks the box at the end of the runway right before planting and ascending off the ground.

Quezada also said UNM felt strongly about her potential in pole vault at the college level.

The last three months proved to be challenging for Quezada because the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 spring sports season.

Quezada said all she could do was fine tune her vertical leap using an at-home pull-up bar.

She could do bubkas, where one swings their legs up and over the bar, allowing them to engage their core and hips while hanging onto the bar upside down. But Quezada said it was impossible to pole vaults with such equipment.

“It was definitely not ideal,” Quezada said.

Going forward, Quezada said she’s working on being face-down when going over the bar as opposed to being positioned on her side when doing so.

“When you’re face-down, you can make a ‘V’ shape with your body. It’s just something that gives you extra height,” Quezada said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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