Student-athlete of the Month: Kyley Foster

Big Sky pole vaulting champion elevates her game on the field and in her chopper as commercial aviation major

Kyley Foster

Kyley Foster credits her passion and motivation for her success as both an athlete and pilot. Since arriving to UND as a track and field walk-on, Foster has pursued a degree in commercial aviation as a helicopter pilot. Image courtesy of North Dakota Athletics.

Leading up to her second consecutive NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Preliminary Round appearance, one might think pole-vaulter Kyley Foster has more time than ever to practice. Finals are over, the spring semester – a thing of the past.

Not everybody is trying to fly like her, though.

Foster, a junior majoring in commercial aviation, describes her student-athlete lifestyle as “interesting.”

“I’m usually flying a few days a week,” she said. “That’s something I do early, like we’re talking sun-is-coming-up early.”

During the semester, there are classes following flights, then practice at the track whenever she can. Now that it’s summer, she’ll be back in the cockpit and classroom soon enough.

“We’re going to be learning a lot this summer,” she remarked.

Kyley Foster

With a number one ranking in the Big Sky Conference, Foster has had a record-breaking season. Just last month she set a new school record when she cleared 13 feet and 9 ¼ inches (4.20 meters), which bested her previous season’s 13 feet and 3 ¾ inches – also a school record. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Records on records

With a number one ranking in the Big Sky Conference, Foster has had a record-breaking season. Just last month she set a new school record when she cleared 13 feet and 9 ¼ inches (4.20 meters), which bested her previous season’s 13 feet and 3 ¾ inches – also a school record.

Her performance punched her ticket to the NCAA Division I regional tournament. This outdoor season, a school-record nine athletes, including Foster, will appear in the postseason.

“We’re getting better every year,” she said when asked about the team. “It’s fun to see. We have a couple freshman going and it’s incredible that they’re already at this level. It’s also great to see fourth-years able to go for the first time. Seeing hard work pay off is really exciting.”

Foster credits her passion and motivation for her success as both an athlete and pilot. Since arriving at UND as a track and field walk-on, Foster has pursued a degree in commercial aviation as a helicopter pilot.

“My godfather was a helicopter pilot in the Air Force and he influenced my life at an early age,” Foster said. “We also took trips when I was little and I loved the flying portion of the vacation as much as anything.”

As influenced as she was, she didn’t have a preference toward either fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters before coming to UND.

“I sat in the helicopter and it was a done deal after that,” she laughed.

Ascendance

Foster also didn’t have a preference for track and field before her arrival. Growing up in Detroit Lakes, Minn., meant getting involved in as many sports as possible.

She started track in sixth grade, where she had her introduction to pole vaulting. Foster describes “cannon-balling” over the bar at six feet when she first started; she credits her coach, a former pole-vaulter himself, with keeping her on the right path. She gained a foot every year.

Once it was time to pick a college, Foster was between hurdles and pole-vaulting.

“Originally I was talked into running hurdles at UND, but I wanted to pole vault,” she recalled. “Luckily we swung that idea enough so that I ended up here just for pole vaulting. Then I saw the aviation department, so that snuck in as well.”

Foster finds interest in most things aviation, saying that it’s something that changes perspectives.

“Growing up, I never knew there was an entirely different world up there,” Foster explained. “I love learning about why things fly, what happens up there, aeromedical factors, everything about it. On top of that, I literally get to learn how to fly for a degree, so it’s great.”

Kyley Foster

Last February, Foster passed her FAA commercial pilot check ride. Foster’s godfather, who influenced her at an early age, was an Air Force helicopter pilot. Image courtesy of UND Aerospace.

Soaring senior

She anticipates a flying focus during her senior year, along with earning her flight instructor certificate. Foster’s connection to the program has only grown as she works every day with people who share her dedication.

“It’s a bonding moment when talking about flying and everyone has the same passion,” she said. “We all love aviation, there’s no doubt about it. That makes it fun and it’s something I appreciate about the program.”

But maintaining academic standing while performing at a high level athletically takes a dedicated mind. Foster’s recipe: motivation, determination, hard work and passion for all things you do – 100 percent.

“I love flying, I love track and I love everything in between,” she said. “It makes it easy to be motivated for it.”

“Over the past three years, Kyley has been an awesome athlete to work with,” Joe Silvers, assistant coach, told UND Today. “She’s diligent with making sure she takes care of herself in both sports and academics. Her passion and drive for not just pole vault, but for academics and learning to fly has helped her achieve what she has in such a short amount of time.”

Silvers further said she’s come a long way from where she was in high school, and that he couldn’t be more proud of the junior pole-vaulter.

“There can be some really long days,” Foster said. “But with time management, it works. UND is really student-athlete-focused, and coach Silvers works really hard to make sure the academics come first.”

When asked about her career outlook, it’s more of a rough draft. There are short-term and long-term goals, but nothing is set in stone. As for preference, Foster pointed to medical aviation; her favorite classes are flight physiology and human factors.

Until then, she’s simply happy for the journey it’s been.

“Enjoy every day,” rang her words of wisdom. “Enjoy what you do and life will be much happier.”