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DECEMBER 2016 ISSUE

CONTENTS r e b ecem D

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FROM THE EDITOR

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APPROACH, PLANT, AND TOP END: UNIQUE POLE VAULT DRILLS

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BUCKEYE TRADITION IN THE MAKING: OHIO STATE POLE VAULT

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THE WILL OF WILLING

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VAULT INJURIES

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WHY I STARTED POLE VAULTING

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FROM THE EDITOR Holly hubs of heck, it’s December already! 2016 is on the verge of passing us right on by. Merry Christmas to you all and we would like to wish you all the best of the holiday season. Things are starting to heat up in the pole vault world, and pole vaulting has begun to get serious right about now.

This month for Vaulter magazine we have Ohio State University on the cover, brings us some Christmas cheer with good ole Santa Clause next to the fireplace. Under the guidance of coach Robert Banhagel and women’s vault coach Richard Ebin, these pole vaulters are sure to bring the competition to a higher level in 2017. This University has a long history of successful track and field athletes, and they are sure to impress once again. Nic Caldwell comes to us this month with an article about the will of the athlete, the hard worker and the ability to work with talent. A fun ar-

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ticle about what coaches have to work with when they have a new athlete joining for the first time. In the end which athlete would you rather have, a talented one or a hard worker?

“Although pole vaulting is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous school sports by athletes and onlookers alike, it is rare that a vaulter will experience one of the near-death experiences that both terrify and draw the general public to the sport.” Kreager Taber discusses the injuries associated with the sport of pole vaulting and the likeliness of occurrence. Great read and interesting perspective into the realm of pole vaulting injuries. Check out Samantha Kaplan once again she discusses three aspects of the vault, approach, plant, and top end. Not only will she discuss the usefulness of these elements, but she’ll also talk about the proper way to run the drills. Fun read and

an excellent way to look at many different variations of the drills. Pool vaulting will be covered in the last paragraph so be sure and read all about it!

Tim Murphy writes about his experiences with track and field and why he started pole vaulting. Knowing his father and track coach would eventually expect the best from him, Tim ended up in the pole vault pit. Great things were sure to follow so have a read and come along for the journey.

Thank you for reading this month’s issue of Vaulter Magazine. Last month of the year and 2017 promises to be a big year with Rice University and Auburn right around the corner. Doug Bouma Editor, Vaulter magazine Vaulter Club Inc.


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Emily Showers © Kaia Willis

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APPROACH, PLANT, AND TOP END: UNIQUE POLE VAULT DRILLS By: Samantha Kaplan Every vaulter who’s trained at the same school or club long for enough knows that it is easy to get caught in a rut; running through the same warm up, form drills, and short approaches each and every practice. Of course, the drills and technique work at vault clubs is most often high end and tailored to perfecting the vault, but by performing the same routine for years, athletes can lose the meaning behind the drills they do, and even form some bad habits that transfer over to the vault. One way to combat the problem of the repetitive routine is just to change up the order of the drills. Simply by switching

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the order during warm up, an athlete will pay more attention to their actions, and consciously execute the drill rather than just go through the motions. But, with more time and access to equipment, whether it be at club practice, school, or home, trying these drills can shake up the pace and introduce new aspects of technique work to the approach, plant, and top end.

The Approach: Banana Hurdle Pole Runs

A cheap and easily obtainable accessory, banana hurdles are a handy piece of equipment. Light, flexible, and easy to transport, banana hurdles come in several different heights, 6”,

12”, 18”, and 24”, the 6” and 12” being most useful for pole runs. Priced at just under 20 dollars on Net World Sports for a pack of 6, the smallest banana hurdles are the most versatile size. It is even possible to craft banana hurdles with PVC pipe and an online tutorial. The main purpose of doing pole runs over banana hurdles is to gain a more consistent and powerful stride with better form. To introduce the hurdles, doing the runs without the pole at first is a good idea. Start the run with the first 10 hurdles about five and a half feet apart from each other. The distance between the hurdles enforces higher knees and an open


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Kids at camp

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stride. At first, vaulters may adapt by bringing their feet around the side of the hurdles, but the goal is to obtain enough power to drive the knees high enough to clear the center of the hurdles, while also landing each stride equally in between two hurdles as not to get caught up and too far away from the next one. Rather than reaching to clear the next hurdle, the vaulter should focus on pushing through the ground with each stride to clear the next hurdle with tall posture, not with an outstretched leg that strikes

Ariel Voskamp

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heel first. Have last 3 hurdles closer together, at about five feet apart. This way, the strides are full and tall throughout the run, but right before take-off, become quicker and more vertical. This helps eliminate extending the last steps that lead to take-off. Many vaulters reach with their final step, which slows them down, cancelling out the speed they just built up, and puts their take-off inside of their mark. The banana hurdle runs help fix this problem by putting the take-off step right beneath the vaulter, maintain-

ing posture, and converting horizontal speed to vertical power. This should start to feel like a natural run, and eventually, the vaulter will not even know the hurdles are there. At that point, increase the distance and/or graduate to the next size hurdle.

The Plant: Hurdle Supported Plant

A widespread problem with planting the pole is getting the top arm from bent, at the hip, to straight up above the head. The


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common issues with this part of the vault include circling the arm wide away from the body, bringing the arm up too far behind the body, unsquaring the shoulders to compensate for the center of gravity changing, and straight-arming to name a few. Unfortunately, often times, practicing the plant does not fix these problems, and actually breeds worse habits. Since the pole is rather heavy, resisting gravity when practicing the plant in slow motion takes away from the focus and puts extra strain on the vaulter. However one simple drill, requiring only a pole, a hurdle, and a wall, could be the solution.

The vaulter should stand about a foot outside of her take-off spot, holding the top of the pole as if the wall were the box. Place a hip high hurdle midway between the wall and the vaulter. The vaulter should be able to rest the pole on the hurdle without the pole hitting the wall. From this position, the vaulter can perform some plants in place, whether they be 3-steps, or 2-‘n’-1’s, walking, or jogging. On the take-off step, the pole should hit the base of the wall and bend as the vaulter drives both arms up, making sure not to lock the bottom elbow, yet not let it collapse. If the pole doesn’t bend easily, the coach can add pressure to the bend by hand. If the Eventually,

Desiree Freier

a small jump can be added to simulate take-off, as long as the vaulter stays strong and tall, not letting herself get swept up by the pole.

The vaulter should easily be able to keep her shoulders square with hurdle supporting the weight of the pole, allowing her to focus on the top arm’s trip from the hip, tight up the side of the body, to full extension above the head, the bottom arm’s central location as the axis for the pole to lower on when the hurdle is gone, and how the plant relates overall to the step. What separates this drill from practicing plants with stubbies is that the vaulter still gets to feel spatially what it is like to carry a pole and how the plant relates in time with

both the step and the pressure of hitting the box.

The Top End: Pool Vault

Many vaulters have heard of it, but very few get to do it on a regular basis. However, if a coach can gain access to a pool, definitely give it a try. Typically, this drill is seen as training for the push off, as gravity is removed from the equation, and vaulters can feel what it is like to extend through both hands off the top of the pole. However, along with that, pool vaulting helps vaulters feel the rock back and inversion in slow motion, as opposed to in real time when the entire vault is over in a matter of seconds.

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The set up is pretty simple. Put a pole straight down in the deep end of the pool. The pole should be long enough that someone can hold it in place at the top. The vaulter who is executing the drill submerges himself underwater, about half way down the pole. Next, take a fairly close grip, top hand completely extended upward, and bottom hand about a forearm’s length below that. From here, there are two ways to perform the drill. The first way works on dropping the shoulders and then the push off. This way is best for vaulters who have trouble getting fully inverted before turning to push off. The vaulter starts with his shins by his hands, body almost in a “V” position. Don’t let the bottom sag too low, have rather the lower back at the bottom of the “V.” From this position, the vaulter should rock back, dropping his shoulders while staying close to the pole with his shins, stomach, and as he rocks back, eventually chest. It is important not to let the feet and legs flag out or initiate the turn during this process. Once the vaulter is parallel to the pole and his shoulders are dropped completely, he may then begin to pull through with the arms and start the turn. It should be noted that up until this point, the vaulter must not pull with his arms. The top arm should

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remain fully extended and the only reason the bottom arm is bent is because it is collapsed to the inside of the pole but it is never pulling. Adding the turn after the push off is not a necessary part of this drill, but if the vaulter wants to work on the complete back half of the vault, he should feel free, so long as along with the turn, he pushes off completely through both arms and sails feet first toward the surface for as long as possible. The second way this drill can be done is by starting from the take off position, drive knee up and trail leg extended back. The hand positions are the same, except the bottom arm will not start out collapsed completely, just bent. The vaulter will execute a swing, with a long trail leg, until he arrives at the position the previous version started in. The only difference he will arrive in a figure 4 position instead of with his legs together, so as he drops his shoulders and inverts, he must also extend the bent knee straight up toward the surface, as parallel to the pole as possible. Adding the swing allows the vaulter to work on his knee drive, and to avoid the double leg swing by making sure he does not drop the drive knee as the trail leg swings. If the drive knee drops

to meet the trail leg, the vaulter loses the power he just created by driving the knee, plus that leg now has to travel twice the distance. Adding the swing


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Jake Blankenship

also helps the vaulter feel the extension in the top arm throughout the entire vault, making sure not to pull at any point before full inversion and

feeling the row through the shoulder. Overall, the water slows down and makes easier the aspects of pole vault that happen after take off, allowing

vaulters to feel themselves go through the motions what they strive to do on land‌so long as they can hold their breath.

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Some schools are synonymous with outstanding athletics, and Ohio State University does not fall short. The Buckeyes track team is no exception to the high performance teams Ohio State produces every year. With high class coaching, rigorous academics, state of the art

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facilities, and a central location in youth-centered Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State is a great choice for athletes looking to push themselves in all walks of life. Ohio State has a rich history in track and field. The school has produced over 200 Olym-

pians earning 77 medals. The most notable Buckeye has to be Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympic gold medal sprinter and long jumper. Buckeyes track made history as the first team from Ohio State to win a national title. However, the school has never been known for its pole


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BUCKEYE TRADITION IN THE MAKING: OHIO STATE POLE VAULT By: Samantha Kaplan

vault. Men’s vault coach Robert Banhagel and women’s vault coach Richard Ebin are on a mission to change that. Five years ago, Buckeyes track went through a head coaching change, resulting in the hiring of the two new pole vault coaches. This decision brought

years of experience and cemented vault philosophies onto the team. Both coaches have been surrounded by pole vault their entire lives and witnessed first hand the evolution of the sport from bamboo and steel poles to the fiberglass and carbon fiber poles of today. They

studied under legends such as Jan Johnson, Vitaly Petrov, Alan Laudner, Dave Butler, Don Hood, and Dave Volz. Through the influences of such knowledgeable vaulters and decades of coaching experience, Coaches Banhagel and Ebin have tailored their coaching techniques

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to best fit their philosophy of the successful vault.

The lucky Buckeyes vault squad that gets to be coached by these students of the sport currently consists of 5 male and 3 female ever improving high flyers. On the men’s side, Cole Gorski (red shirt sophomore/junior, PR 5.02) and Nick Schrader (red shirt junior, PR 5.20) lead the way, and the women are lead by Madison Roberts (junior, PR 3.76, number 2 all time Ohio State University woman). These vaulters are consistently recognized for both academic and athletic achievements in The Big Ten conference and in the state of Ohio, making them roll models for all student athletes. Buckeye vaulters Coty Cobb (sophomore, PR 5.11), Robby Oswald (freshman, PR 5.12), and Dan Soehnlen (sophomore, PR 4.47) round off the men’s squad, and Allyson Simmons (junior, PR 4.07, Ohio high school record holder/Ohio State University record holder) and Megan Hoffman (sophomore, PR 3.60) are the girls. Together, these eight vaulters hold countless titles from State Championship and New Balance National Championship competitors in high school, to Big Ten conference and NCAA National Championship athletes as Buckeyes. Fortunately for the rising vault program, none of the vaulters

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are seniors, meaning they will all be able to grow and improve along with their school’s program; they are all a part of establishing Ohio State pole vault as a force to be reckoned with, and will continue to see it grow once they are gone, but they will not miss out.

One of the most appealing aspects of Ohio State for athletes of any sport is the wide variety of premiere facilities. The French Field House is the center for track and field development at Ohio State, equipped with “an Indoor PV Pit, two boxes, an in-house Strength and Conditioning weight room, rope vault, high bars, sliding boxes, scaffolding, jump pits, a large variety of pole selection and inversion equipment.” One unique perk of being an Ohio State vaulter is access to The Steelwood Athletic Training Facility, a “15,000 square foot gymnastics work out arena.” The resipits, rings, tumbletraks, foam pits, and complete set of gymnastics apparatuses allow vaulters to train the often overlooked gymnastic elements of the vault, as well as do conditioning in fun and challenging ways. The McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion houses the pool for pool vaulting technique drills and low impact cardio work, and the Tom Davis Climbing Center gives vaulters access to two walls with a wide variety

of climbing styles and holds to train grip strength. However, the home of the Buckeyes track and field teams, where they take to the stage, is the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Seating 10,000, this facility, where Allyson Simmons © Walt Middleton

the Buckeyes train in both fall and spring, houses a 9-lane track and is considered “One of the finest multi-sport facilities in the country,” according to Coach Banhagel.


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The Ohio State Buckeyes are a Division I school part of The Big Ten conference. The Big Ten is one of the most notorious conferences in the country and always has tough competition. “This season, the Big Ten

is wide open,” says Coach Banhagel, speaking on the vaulting front. Heights that have won the conference in years past are now expected to be needed to even place. “The competition

is some of the best in the country, with many of the vaulters consistently landing spots in the National Championship,” remarks Coach Ebin about the female competition. Buckeye vaulters are becoming more

and more competitive in the conference, with the quality of the Ohio State program improving every year. Ohio State has already had some success at the conference champion-

ships, Cobb placing 5th last season, and Schrader and Gorski earning academic honors, but the Buckeye vaulters and coaches are hungry for success in their conference this year, and are hard at work producing Big Ten champions.

Vaulters looking into Ohio State should know a few things. First of all, Ohio State places academics above all else. With over 200 majors, from medicine to business to architecture, Ohio State is ranked in the top 20 public universities in the country. Buckeye coaches do recruit, but are also open to athletes who reach out to the school. “Athletes are evaluated on their overall speed, jumping ability, flexibility, and gymnastics training as well as personality,” says Coach Banhagel. 4.75m is the standard personal best for men to walk on, and the standard for women is ever increasing, but hovers around the 4 meter mark. Lower jumpers are put through a trial phase, and with improvement are welcomed onto the team. Mandatory practices begin as soon as possible, one week into the school year. Ohio State vaulters do not jump during the off-season. They take a mental and physical break for 30-50 days over the summer in order to preserve their passion for the sport, but the athletes continue to lift 3 times a

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week and cross train to stay in shape. During the school year, the Buckeye vaulters drill, drill, drill. The fall is the season to “zero in on conditioning and fundamentals, down to the basics.” Some of Coach Banhagel’s favorite drills include 2 and 1 drills, arm angles, body positions, plant techniques, penultimate drills, sprint mechanics, head, shoulders and hip placement. Later in the season, the focus shifts to the event as a whole, applying the drills to the one fluid motion that is the vault. “During the season,” says Coach Ebin, “we do gymnastics twice a week, and Cole Gorski © Walt Middleton

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on deload weeks, we include pool workouts and occasional rock climbing.” The vaulters train the vault in a variety of different ways to become as well rounded as possible. The team also spends a lot of time together doing community service projects and fun activities such as their recent mannequin challenge video. This year, the men’s and women’s teams have merged into one big Buckeye family. This has really helped the team become well rounded, instead of placing focus on a few events. This means that more than ever, the Buckeye vaulters are getting the atten-

tion they deserve to succeed, as Ohio State strives to become a school truly known for jumps. Many schools have a rich history in the vault. But in order for anything to become a tradition, it has to begin, and the Ohio State coaches are extremely excited about the new program they are establishing as a new Buckeye tradition. With the commitment of new coaches with a strong vault philosophy, combined with the ever-improving talent of incoming vaulters, Coach Banhagel is sure that Ohio State pole vault “Just might surprise you!”


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Nick Schrader © Walt Middleton

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THE WILL OF WILLING By: Nic Caldwell

A talented athlete and a hard worker walk in to a gym. No, this isn’t some sort of joke where we can laugh at the pun. This is real life. And this happens all over the world. We usually only hear about the talented athletes that work hard (NBA, NFL, NHL, Olympians, state champions, etc.). But, in our day to day life, we encounter a talented person with average “Will” and a less than athletic counterpart that is “Willing”. So, which one succeeds? First, let us set the parameters: both want to excel and both show up to practice. To easy, right?

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The athlete Nothing is more exciting when you get to coach a kid with raw ability. They are untapped, no bad habits and excited to start something new. In a world of pushing people forward, it’s refreshing to tame a beast. They need to learn the basics, how things work, and their role on the team. This is when they are the most malleable. They watch, learn and repeat simple concepts. They only need specific que’s instead of measured amounts of time. They quickly rise to the top and things couldn’t be better. This coaching thing is pretty easy! And then the second year rolls around. They are just as ex-

cited but not as quick to learn. The intent of drills becomes less apparent. As the season dwindles down, so does the effort. Somehow the intangible entitlement chip has placed on their shoulder and old drills don’t apply to them anymore. They blast through the regular season and preform less than their ability in post season. They crumble under pressure. The will has taken a back seat.

The hard worker

If this was a whimsical story, this kid would be a hare. Barring down, biting their lip and slowly putting one step ahead of the other. Most of these kids understand that they need ex-


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Mary Saxer 2016 pole Vault Summit, thankful the bar stayed on

tra time and are appreciative for it. These are the kids that are more often relatable and easier to connect with. Much more time is invested with them and thus a closer connection. The hard worker often sets smaller, more attainable short term goals. Every stair that is climbed in the battle for success is another notch of confidence between coach and athlete. The hard worker can most often be dependable and trusted to lead warmups or demonstrate skills in which they have been doing for years. What is the difference between them? The hard worker may end up staying the hard worker. Always getting better, but may not end on top. On a not-to-often occasion, the hard worker may reach the top of the stair case. All the hours that were spent trying to catch up to the athlete finally caught up to the hard worker. When times get tough, they didn’t give up. They didn’t rely on their athletic ability. They relied on what they practiced. They relied on what they knew how to do.

The difference of three letters, will and willing, is a life choice. The athletic kid has the will to be great. They want it, they taste it, and they fight for it while in a battle. They often have not had many moments

when the troll of self-doubt has crawled between the encased ear drums and asked,” Are you ready? I’m about to find out what you are made of. Are you willing to trust your training? Did you practice with intent? Were you willing to focus when your friends were un-

able? Are you willing to trust your coach? Are you willing to trust yourself?” The hard worker has already fought all of these battles at practice. They were willing to take a risk. They were willing to trust them self. They were willing to be an athlete.

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VAULT INJURIES By: Kreager Taber

Although pole vaulting is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous school sports by athletes and onlookers alike, it is rare that a vaulter will actually experience one of the near-death experiences that both terrify and draw the general public to the sport. Although rare, pole vault injuries seem to dominate the coverage of the sport rather than new records or incredible jumps. Videos of pole breaks, like those of Demi Payne and Sandi Morris from earlier this year, reach thousands of people, athletes and non-athletes alike, on social media sites like YouTube and Instagram. However, much less attention is paid to the smaller injuries that are much more common in pole vaulting. In an attempt to decrease that glaring gap in knowledge, Dr. Gregory Rebella set out to explore the most common injury patterns in collegiate pole vaulters in order to identify common injury types and what

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errors in the vault technique could cause them.

Dr. Rebella’s study, conducted in 2015 using 135 collegiate pole vaulters from 15 different colleges and universities, found that 41% of the vaulters suffered some kind of injury during a single season period. Interestingly, none of the injuries in the study were to the head or neck, which are almost expected due to the gravity defying reputation of the sport. It was found that the lower back was the most common place of injury, and was followed by the hamstrings and lower leg regions. Within the injuries, almost 40% were due to some kind of muscular strains. The common muscular strains reported spanned the lower back region, the legs, and the feet, especially the ankles.

Lower back, hamstring, and ankle injuries all have a glaring factor in common- poor takeoff

mechanics. 32.8% of the injuries recorded in Dr. Rebella’s study, involving 83% of the injuries to the lower back, were sustained during the plant and takeoff phase. Taking off too close to the box puts strain on the hamstrings, especially in the takeoff leg. Additionally, strain is put on the lower back if the body is forced to compensate for poor mechanics in the plant and takeoff phase. The hyperextension of the lower back area, whether due to the positioning necessary for an effective swing or due to a vaulter adjusting for their step being too close to the box, increases a vaulter’s chances of suffering an injury to the lower spine specifically during the plant and takeoff. As noted by the study, by overstepping and taking off too close to the box, the angle of the pole at takeoff is lowered and the energy transfer from the vaulter’s momentum into the pole is suboptimal. Additionally, taking off inside also puts stress on the


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Sandi Morris World Indoor

ankles and can force the ankle of the takeoff leg into an unnatural position. An inside step causes more of the force of the takeoff phase to be taken in and

disseminated into the vaulter’s body rather than being used effectively in the vault. This energy transfer into the body can lead to muscular strains or, in

worse cases, fractures or stress reactions. Teaching young pole vaulters proper takeoff mechanics

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as they start pole vaulting could decrease their rates of injury as they gain more experience, especially in the lower spine and legs. However, more often than not, vaulters over-stride their last step due to the effect of the weather, fatigue, or various other inconsistent factors rather than just pure poor form. Having vaulters practice consistency in the takeoff and plant phase by incorporating pole runs, with emphasis on the timing of the pole drop in the final few steps, could help vaulters train to be consistent even in less-than-optimal conditions. When practicing the plant phase of the vault, have vaulters put an emphasis on running smoothly and consistently, rather than just quickly, to practice precision in the final steps of the vault. The sliding box is also an effective tool to practice the timing and positioning of the takeoff, and can help teach vaulters to transfer energy effectively without having to take full jumps. The incorporation of a “midmark”, or a mark on the runway showing a vaulter where their feet should land at some step in the middle of their approach, can also help to increase consistency in the running phase leading up to the pole plant. However, a mid-mark could also distract a vaulter in a competition setting, so they should be used primarily for sliding box drills and pole runs. The precision in the final few steps of the approach can then transfer over to more effective takeoff mechanics, and a more consistent step will decrease the likelihood of stress on the lower spine and hamstrings due to compensation for an “inside” step.

References-

The study also references grip placement and pole stiffness as factors that commonly have adverse affects on takeoff mechanics. Both factors require a higher amount of energy transfer to occur in the takeoff phase to create a more successful vault; however, if moving up in stiffness or grip is too advanced for the pole vaulter, it is common that the factors will cause the vaulter to take off incorrectly, increasing the likelihood of injury. Less experienced pole vaulters are more likely to injure themselves while moving up on poles because they are unaware of the changes in technique necessary to execute a safe and successful vault. Injuries were also nearly twice as likely to be sustained in a competition setting, possibly due to the adrenaline and exciting atmosphere causing the pole vaulter to over stride their last few steps and take off inside. More research has to be conducted before the definite causes of the smallest and most common pole vault injuries are understood; however, Dr. Rebella’s study sheds light on how the (arguably) most difficult part of the vault, the takeoff phase, contributes to injuries and how it can be altered to prevent them. In conclusion, you may want to hold off buying a helmet for now and invest in some good ole’ fashion drills to make pole vaulting a safer sport.

Rebella G. April 2015. A Prospective Study of Injury Patterns in Collegiate Pole Vaulters. Am J Sports Med 43 808-815; published online before print January 16, 2015, doi:10.1177/0363546514564542.

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Demi Payne

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WHY I STARTED POLE VAULTING By: T.J. Murphy “You weren’t at practice today. Why not?” My dad asked just after dinner. This question was becoming routine since I had no interest in running and my father was the high school track coach. I was only in 8th grade so it didn’t really make sense to be in trouble quite yet. In my mind I had a whole year left before my life became dad’s favorite sport. The last thing I wanted to do in my free time was run laps around a track. I couldn’t fathom how anyone found joy in running. To me running seemed everything but exciting unless you were sprinting after a ball or launching your body to make a tackle. But my real passion as a kid thrived within the world of action sports. At a young age I was immersed in skateboarding,

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snowboarding, bikes, motorcycles and anything that accompanied an adrenaline rush. The X Games became my religion and I aspired to be like athletes such as Ryan Sheckler, Shaun White, and Travis Pastrana who were gods to a young shredder like myself. Before high school I would eat, sleep, and breathe skateboarding and spent just about every waking moment outside of a classroom trying to learn new tricks and make videos with my friends. I loved trying to reach my limits and capturing those moments on camera. When high school came around I knew having a father for a track coach would slowly bring my skateboarding and snowboarding career to a halt. Right away I was forced into running cross-country, which,

for someone like myself was the ultimate torture. Although I resisted public death by jogging, coming in last place, posing calmly for the cameras at the finish line, and eating whatever I wanted before a race I did find that trackies were a great community and I enjoyed being a part of the team. Before any race or practice there was always some down time. I was the guy usually dancing around with a hacky sack ready to make friends with anyone who wanted to join. I still found time to spend on my skateboard after practice or on the weekends but for the most part that time slot was being filled now. The cross-country season was coming to an end and the November leaves were covered in frost. This meant one thing,


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winter was coming and that meant snow and snow meant long hours spent in the front yard trying to build the biggest jump I could launch myself off. I would spend hours flying down a hill just to experience flight for a fraction of a second, where gravity subsides and my body feels weightless. I was addicted to that feeling but with track taking up so much time I was still struggling to keep adrenaline and excitement in my life. That was until I showed up to the indoor track season and found pole-vaulting.

I remember my first track meet like it was yesterday. It was crowded and fast paced like the streets of New York City during Christmas time. Races were going off, a gun was being fired, people were everywhere, and I had to choose an event. I wanted nothing to do with running so when the time came I dodged everything that required over 200 meters of running even if that meant hiding in the bathroom for an hour. But unlike cross country I was actually drawn to a few events. I enjoyed the challenge presented by both high jump and long jump to spring one’s body as far and as high as possible yet they seemed too simplistic for my taste.

I was particularly drawn to the guys who were charging down a runway with a long stick, flinging themselves into the air like spitballs off a plastic spoon, and then landing on this large ocean of mats. My eyes grew with excitement and my heart raced every time I watched someone attempt this miraculous stunt. And so I grabbed a stick, took my spot in line and I ran like hell down the runway. To my disbelief it was much harder than it looked… When my father (coach) was trying to locate my whereabouts he was not surprised to find me by the pole vault area. I was crazy and he knew that. But my father’s expertise persisted mostly in running and pole vault was one par-

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ticular event that he never attempted as an athlete. So when he found his own son fascinated by the event he took a deep breath and said “okay lets see what you got.” When I flew down the runway I looked much like an eight-foot shish kabob, being the shrimp that I was, and nothing like the acrobatic gymnast I thought I looked like. However, instead of telling me to try an easier event my father encouraged me to keep trying pole vault. He pushed me because even though he didn’t know much about pole vaulting he noticed my ambition. And to him that ambition was like a seed and pole vault was the proper soil where the roots of such an ambition would grow strong and healthy. Tending that ambition anywhere else would be a mistake.

The things that terrify most people about pole vaulting are the things that fascinate me most. First things first you need to be a little crazy to want to pole vault. It’s a lot about trust and risk; you can’t be afraid to take that leap of faith but you have to trust yourself enough to jump. And if you don’t take that leap of faith there’s no progressing in the sport, that’s what makes my heart race. Its like cliff jumping, you walk up to the edge, your heart beats a little faster, you spot where you want to land in the water and you


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Kids watching the elites pole vault

go. But once you start running you need to jump. Sure there are moments of panic, hesitation and frustration where its much easier to pack it up and walk away. But part of the sport is to take that leap of faith, to go against everything telling you to stop and just jump. The tradeoff is that brisk moment

of free fall where we take one deep breath and every tense muscle in our body experiences flight. After a while that same jump becomes easy and we become used to it. So we must go higher and bigger if we want to experience the big rush again, the exhilarating adrenaline of progress.

I found that pole vault has very little room for comfort zones much like riding a snowboard or cliff jumping. Pole vault demands you to push your mind just as much as you push your body. For that I will always love the sport of pole vaulting and admire the unique spark of craziness it takes to be a vaulter.

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Flying Dragons Club Vaulters

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MAGAZINE

Sam Kendricks

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Vault with Confidence The lightweight Kendricks Special Edition and Recoil Series poles by UST-ESSX are engineered for superior power, stability and consistency. The world’s best vaulters trust our technologically-advanced designs to help them reach their full potential, from approach to push off. Jump with UST-ESSX, and start raising the bar on your level of confidence.

December 2016 Ohio State University  
December 2016 Ohio State University  

December 2016 Ohio State University cover of Vaulter Magazine for the whole world to view.

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