Student Spotlight: Zac Rosen gets back on track


Rosen clears 13’7” at the Walter Bass High School Invitational at Liberty University on Jan. 14. Photo used with the permission of Elias Morrad.

Claire Baek, Staff Writer

Senior Zac Rosen runs, stabs his pole in the box, lifts his body off the ground and vaults over the bar. Rosen’s personal best is 14’7”, improving on his 3rd place winter track state finish of 13’6”.  Rosen plans to continue track and field through his college years.

Pole vaulting is grouped with the three other track and field jumping events: long jump, triple jump, and high jump. In pole vaulting, athletes use long, flexible poles to jump over high bars. People initially used pole vaulting to jump over ditches and fences when it was first introduced as a sport in Germany around the 1850s and added as an Olympic event in 1896. 

Since middle school, Rosen has consistently been involved in pole vaulting. After finding a flier for tryouts in the locker room, Rosen started track the following summer and has been a part of the team ever since. He didn’t have a reason for wanting to try out–he just thought it would be fun and exciting to get involved in a high school sport. 

“Using a stick to jump over a bigger stick is the best way to describe pole vault,” Rosen said. “I chose pole vaulting over regular track because I was much better at it and didn’t want to run constantly.”

Rosen practices in the CHS gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays around 3 p.m to 5 p.m. or 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. During the pandemic, Rosen went to a club at the Dulles Expo Center to practice during the winter season. Regular sprint practices also helped keep Rosen in shape. 

“There is a lot of overlap between the field events, especially in the sprinting events,” track coach James Steck said. “In terms of technical work, I think pole vault is one of the most complicated sports to learn because there are so many components, and it’s highly dangerous if we don’t take it slowly, step by step.” 

Injuries are often an obstacle to the success of athletes, as Rosen learned after breaking a vertebra last year during practice. Spine fractures are the most common injury in pole vaulting and can have lifelong effects, such as permanent spinal cord injury, nerve damage, and paralysis, according to Penn Medicine.  As a result, Rosen had to rest for six months. 

“The injury was a lot harder mentally knowing that I couldn’t practice regardless of how badly I wanted to and was unable to even try and improve for half a year,” Rosen said. “Having people who support me helped me endure the physical and mental pain.”

Steck has been one of Rosen’s biggest supporters. Steck countlessly reminded Rosen of his achievements throughout the injury period and helped him dream bigger and kept pushing himself to become a better athlete than before.

“Zac had been progressing rapidly his junior year and that severe back injury made him plateau for a bit,” Steck said. “After the injury, Zac returned with a hunger, and he had a definite goal to continue pole vault in college.”

Rosen will be continuing pole vaulting through his college years and is excited to continue pole vaulting at a higher level with better competition. 

“One word to describe Zac would be driven,” sophomore Trent Saben said. “Zac is an athlete who knows what he needs to do to accomplish his goals and tries in any way he can to achieve them.”