Gar-Field senior Kira Sims trusted her instincts, and it could pay off soon.

The versatile track athlete decided in December to try the pole vault and in a short time has become one of Virginia's elite performers in the event. She already has been offered a Division I scholarship.

Sims will get a chance to see how she stacks up against some of the nation's best pole vaulters at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Cleveland, which begin today and run through Aug. 7.

Sims is going to Cleveland with six other athletes from her summer track team, the Quiet Storm Track Club: Brooke Point junior Keosha Sanders (200), Gar-Field junior Dionne Evans (800, 1,500), North Stafford junior Letreya Parker (100, 200), Gar-Field senior Takeitha Jordan (high jump) and rising area freshmen Jamie Mushatt-Valerie (discus, javelin) and Katherine Warden (1,500). Sanders and Parker were the only Quiet Storm athletes to compete last year.

Sims, who has competed in the long jump, triple jump and the hurdles at the Dale City school, said the pole vault "was my idea. It was something new to try, and it just looked exciting."

And it has turned out to be her best event.

"As I kept getting better, I was, like, 'I'm not going to give this up,' and it grew on me," Sims said. "I think it was after the indoor state meet when I got second, that's when I figured I could actually be good."

Sims vaulted nine feet to finish second to Hayfield's Carrie Bennett at the Virginia AAA indoor track and field championships this season. At the outdoor state meet, her 10-foot vault was good for another second-place finish to Bennett.

This summer she decided to join Quiet Storm, a second-year track club run by G. Marie Brown, who is assisted by her husband, Bob. Sims hopes this experience will help her get in better shape for indoor track.

"I figured it would be good to be already in shape and work on track the whole year round instead of taking a break," Sims said. "I think I will be better in all my events because of what I am doing over this summer."

And what she has done this summer is shine. On July 11, she won the AAU Region II pole vault title in the young women's division at Mount St. Mary's College, defeating University of Maryland-bound Natalie Dye on a tiebreaker with a vault of 10-6, a personal-best for Sims.

At the East Coast Invitational last weekend at Whitman High School, Sims placed third in the pole vault (10-0), behind Dye (10-9) and South Carolina-bound Lori Tvarkunas (10-0).

"I think the pole vault is her ticket [for a scholarship]," Bob Brown said. "In college, they can work with her in other events, and she will be a good decathlete."

For now, Sims is waiting for a new pole to come in the mail. She is replacing her 12-foot pole with a 14-footer that will allow her to go higher. Sims hopes to clear 12 feet by the indoor state meet this winter.

"When [Sims] gets the right pole, she is going to get even better," G. Marie Brown said. "She has a lot of determination, is very competitive and wants to do very well. With all that combined, I think she will do just fine."