Members of a highly competitive team, track and field athletes use a variety of techniques to showcase their skills against other schools, such as hurdles and the pole vault. Although the pole vault is a lesser-known and often daunting skill to master, several committed Chargers have gained expertise through nothing short of hard work and dedication on the field.
“Pole vaulting usually brings together a crew of people who are risk-takers, personable and unafraid of hard work,” assistant coach and English teacher James Steck said. “It requires all-around athleticism, and the sense of solidarity is strong.”
In addition to regular track practice, which involves sprinting workouts and speedwork, these Chargers exercise their pole vaulting skills twice a week from 6 to 8 a.m.
“During pole vault practice, we focus on the technicalities of the event and the fundamentals of pole vault,” Steck said. “It’s a commitment, but we have a good time.”
However, pole vaulters often face uncertainty and anxiety for their performance. Success rarely comes easily, even for the most experienced pole vaulters.
“We have two hours for the pole vault during practice, but we’re not guaranteed to do well,” senior Clark Saben said. “Every time you go to the runway, it’s a completely different mindset. It’s never easy, especially if you’re new and you don’t have the muscle memory yet.”
Pole vault routinely challenges athletes to confront their fears and overcome the inherent risks that the sport possesses.
“When learning how to pole vault, you come ready to fail, perhaps more times than you ever have,” Steck said. “It is difficult to understand, and it really forces the brain to face some primal fears, like sprinting full speed at a stationary object, being upside down and falling from a high place. But in the end, you will succeed and it will make all of the struggle feel validated.”
The pole vault team is determined to consistently overcome these obstacles throughout the spring season and strives to accomplish greater feats.
“I hope to be able to come back into vaulting after my shoulder injury [heals] and clear 8’6” this season,” freshman Zachary Rosen said. “Everyone has improved a great amount from when I got there this winter, so I want to be there for following seasons to get more people to join.”
Many pole vaulters attribute their success to the close instruction of their coaches, including Steck, a prominent state champion since high school, who help to strengthen their team spirit.
“Mr. Steck being an amazing coach and making close ties with everyone helped me to be the best that I can be,” Rosen said. “The whole team atmosphere was something special.”
Others find their primary source of motivation in globally-renowned pole vault champions, some of whom hold a number of world records.
“My biggest motivation is Mondo Duplantis,” Saben said. “He always gets the world record in the pole vault, even in the adult men’s age group. It looked super fun, so I wanted to do it too.”
Their consistent dedication to pole vault has allowed them to attain considerable achievements as individuals and as a team.
“Since last year, everyone I began coaching has improved,” Steck said. “A majority of those I have coached made it to regionals, and this year we were able to secure some solid points at the district championships.”
Steck is certain that our pole vaulters will continue to break their personal records and reach greater heights in the following seasons.
“We have a lot of untapped potential still waiting to show itself,” Steck said. “I know that a few of us can be really big regional contenders and possibly make it to a state championship. As long as [we] continue to be optimistic, we’ll do some really amazing things in the coming future.”