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Nicolet National Bank Senior Spotlight: Eliza Aitken, West De Pere track and field

Eliza enters her senior track and field season with a wealth of awards already in her back pocket. In 2022, she was a part of the Phantom girl’s team that won the state championship, while she individually finished second in the pole vault, second in the 400 meter dash and sixth in the 200 meter dash.

Name: Eliza Aitken

Parents: Rachel and A.J. Aitken

Activity: Track and Field

Instagram: @eliza.aitken

Do you have a different mentality for this track season with all the pole vault success you had last season?

“I think that at the beginning of this season, I’m vaulting a lot better than I was last year. I’ve grown a lot as a vaulter since last season, I’m on bigger poles and I’ve already been hitting heights that are bigger than what I was hitting this time last year. My preparation going into this season is really going to help as I juggle sprinting and pole vaulting, especially when it comes into play later in the season.”

What’s the balance like between being an elite sprinter and an elite pole vaulter?

“For me, I always want pole vault to come first, but that can’t always happen. I’m a team player, and I always want my team to succeed. Sprinting has been really amazing for me to excel at, especially because the faster you are, the better pole vaulter you will be. Because I’ve developed so much speed, it’s really helped me on the runway when I’m pole vaulting.”

You committed to the University of South Dakota for track and field. Why there?

“When I visited South Dakota, I just fell in love with everything that it has to offer. It’s a really good fit academically, and I also love the track program. The coaches are amazing; everyone I’ve met on the team is amazing. I’m really excited to work with all the coaches — they’re really amazing, especially the pole vault coach. The head coach is really great too. The vaulters are all incredible people — they’re all so nice. It’s been really great to follow along with their season this year – the girl vault squad is doing amazing. It’s incredible to watch. They were recently ranked number one in the nation. I’ve had a lot of fun following along with them this season.”

The Phantoms won the team track title last season. What does this year’s team look like?

“The squad is looking pretty similar to last year. We lost a few field event seniors going into this year, but our sprint squad is pretty good. We might put some athletes at some different spots, but we’re all really talented. Our practices have been going amazing so far. As a team, we really push each other. My teammates are amazing, I love them. They’re all really dedicated athletes. Last year, our mindset was taking every meet one at a time, staying humble, and because we had a lot of success last year, we know how that feels. We know that it’s hard to win a state championship but it’s even harder to win two in a row. We’re all determined to get back where we were last year, and I know that working together in practice, we can accomplish some really great things again.”

You appeared on American Ninja Warrior Junior. What was that like?

“That experience was amazing. I did ninja training, I started five years ago and I still do it whenever I have time. Being on TV was an incredible experience — it’s a pretty unique one. Competing in ninja is really unique in that it’s a sport that most people are not familiar with. The community is amazing; the people that you’re surrounded with while you compete make it a really cool atmosphere to be in because everybody wants you to succeed. Training in ninja has helped me as an athlete all around, just in the upper body strength and especially the mental side of things. I love how ninja ties into pole vault because mentally, some things are always scary, and when I defeat these scary obstacles, it reminds me that I can do anything that I set my mind to.”

Does the track team ever go out to eat after meets?

“We do. Because track meets often end pretty late, our go-to is always Culver’s. We’re just looking for something to eat after a long day of work.”

Who is on top of your music playlist right now?

“Right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of Coldplay and Tate McRae. My music taste always changes.”

What is your favorite television show?

“I watch a lot of NCIS, that’s kind of my go-to show for when I have nothing to do.”

Do you have any pets?

“I have one dog, her name is Ruby. She’s a mix of stuff. She kind of resembles a fox — she’s small.”

What is a hobby of yours?

“I’ve been really into rock climbing lately. That kind of ties into the ninja training, but it’s another extreme thing that I love to do. It fits my personality.”

Have you been to the new Odyssey Climbing in Ashwaubenon?

“I have. I actually work there, so I’m really involved with what’s going on over there!”

Where is a favorite place you’ve traveled to?

“My dad is from Canada, so all of my dad’s side of the family lives there. When we can, I love going to Canada. I especially love British Columbia; I love going to Whistler because one of my aunts lives there.”

What will your academics look like at South Dakota?

“I am planning on studying marketing. I’ve taken a few classes in high school that are similar to that, and I really love what you can do with marketing. That’s my plan for right now.”

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