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Central Ohio Pole Vault Takes Off
This is by far the BEST collection of Ohio HS vaulters ever. Especially when you consider they are all in the Greater Columbus area. When I graduated we had 5 vaulters jumping 15+, but that was from all over the state. here you have twin brothers jumping 16-8 and 16-7...those are 2 of of the 3 highest vaults ever.
Up, up and away
Pole vaulters fly their own way, so they stick together
Sunday, May 9, 2010 2:58 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Will Figg | Dispatch photos
Jason Hoskins of Olentangy Orange tries to clear the bar during the Freedom Relays at Olentangy Liberty. For the first time, seven boys in central Ohio have topped 15 feet this spring.
Pole vaulters are as competitive as any other athletes but often offer one another tips on what they can do to improve their performances.
Pole vaulters have been called the thrill-seekers, daredevils and nonconformists of track and field, and those are the complimentary adjectives.
"People refer to us as oddballs, weirdos, space cadets. ... We've heard them all," said Olentangy Liberty junior Chris Uhle, seemingly unfazed by the flighty (pun intended) reputation of those who specialize in catapulting themselves over a bar as high as a highway overpass.
"We are kind of secluded over by the pit, and we definitely have our own little fraternity. Our event is really unique compared to the other ones in track, and it takes a lot of practice and coaching to do it even halfway well. I think people naturally wonder what goes through our heads to want to propel ourselves upside down over that bar."
In a dual meet earlier this season, Chris' twin brother, Joe, cleared 16 feet, 5 inches, but it wasn't accepted as a state record because the Ohio High School Athletic Association requires five teams to compete in order for records to be observed. On April23, Chris made it official with a 16-6 vault. On April30, both Uhles soared 16-7. On Thursday, Joe took sole ownership with a 16-8 leap..
For the first time, seven central Ohio boys have topped 15-0 this spring: the Uhles, Jake Blankenship of Gahanna (15-8), Austin Hicks of Olentangy (15-6), Dominic Koah of Teays Valley (15-6), Bret Myers of Big Walnut (15-6) and Michael Shibko of Dublin Scioto (15-0). Four area vaulters cleared 15-6 and broke the Ohio indoor mark in February.
Of that group, all but Koah and Blankenship are members of the Dave Garcia Pole Vault Academy, conducted at Superkick Sports Complex in Lewis Center.
Garcia has 30 years of experience coaching pole vaulters at the college level, including Ohio State. Working with a knowledgeable coach is paramount in such a specialized event.
"There are a few skills I can detect that might give me reason to suspect that a person has a strong future in pole vaulting, such as motor skills, the way they run and their potential to grow with the pole," Garcia said, "but for the most part this event is unique in that it's a developmental thing. You only get better by polishing your technique and repeating that skill over and over and over again."
Garcia works with boys and girls of all ages and levels.
Until he came onto the scene, success among area vaulters was limited mostly to schools with a reputable coach.
Vaulting is in the blood of many of the competitors. The Uhles' brother, Mike, won a state title in 2007. Blankenship trains under his uncle, Rob Banhagel, a former Olympic trials qualifier, and grandfather Bob Banhagel, current national masters champion.
Economics also figure largely into the equation. An average pit costs $12,000, and poles run anywhere from $300 to $600. As their skill level progresses, athletes require longer poles and often go through three or four in a season.
Only one or two City League teams compete in the pole vault, and it's not just because of the cost. West senior Jack Dixon died in the 1987 Hilltop Relays after missing the pit and landing on his head during a warm-up jump.
Fear, however, has no place in the pole vault. In 2008, Myers snapped a pole and fell on his head. Although carried out of the stadium on a backboard, he escaped with minor injuries. As soon as he received medical clearance, he was back vaulting.
"It was an experience, all right, but it was just a minor setback," Myers said. "Injuries occur in all sports."
Try convincing a pole vaulter's parent, though.
"In the back of your mind you imagine some ugly things," said Myers' father, Eric, who is Big Walnut's coach. "But I've always preached that you can't go through life fearing things, that you face your fears and work through them."
Beth Tatman didn't hesitate at all when asked if she ever worries about her daughter Kori Tatman, who pole-vaults for Amanda-Clearcreek.
"No, not at all," she said. "Her father and I worried more when she was competing in gymnastics, flipping on the balance beam and swinging on those bars. Kori's never been the least bit afraid. She's always been a little bit adventurous. I think that's why she took up the pole vault."
Amara Whaley of Westerville Central is the top-ranked girl vaulter in central Ohio at 12-0, followed by Tatman and Katrina Steinhauser of Circleville at 11-6. Tatman tied for third in the state in 2008 (10-8) and was second last year in Division II (11-9).
Compared with that in other events - and other sports, for that matter - the pole vaulters' camaraderie is admirable. They regularly share not only poles, but advice. You'd hardly know that they're competing against one another.
"We yell for each other and, after every jump, we try to tell that person what they did wrong and what they need to correct," Joe Uhle said. "Sure, you like to win and set personal records, but when you put it all in perspective, we're all in this together competing against the same rival - the bar."
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