Everyone has that friend growing up that is always there and you hardly realize it. You don’t remember if you invited them or if they just showed up. They go hours without speaking and soon you forget they are even there, until they do something awesome. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point pole-vaulting team is that friend.
Often lost in the mix at track meets, pole-vaulters at UWSP sometimes fall by the wayside. And why wouldn’t they? Pole vaulters are weird. They run for a little ways, thrust a stick into the ground and hope they make it over a bar that is set unreasonably high.
But the vaulters bring an extra flair to the team. Maybe they are not as heralded as a sprinter and do not perform the same feats of strength as a thrower, but a pole vaulter can bring just as much excitement to a meet as any other athlete. And this season has the potential for fireworks.
"We have the coaching to be successful," said sophomore vaulter Ryan Finnel. "If everyone puts in the work there should be no reason we can’t compete in conference."
Last year during the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Meet, sophomore Samantha Haas finished in a tie for tenth place, the highest finish of any UWSP vaulter. Finnel is optimistic that this year someone will place higher.
"We got a lot of new freshman vaulters coming in. They show a lot of potential and good work ethic," Finnel said.
The lone upperclassman this season is senior Jamie Clarkson. Clarkson will be looked to lead the women’s team while a group of sophomores will try to guide the men’s.
"The incoming freshmen have a lot to learn,"said sophomore vaulter Ben Robers. "It’s a big transition between vaulting in high school and vaulting in college."
Even though pole vaulting is an individual event, having your teammates around helps keep the team’s goals in perspective. Working together and having each other’s back is an important aspect, and this team is no exception.
"We all seem to be getting along well so far. I hope that will carry throughout the season," Finnel said.
Despite the fact that pole-vaulters don’t run very fast, run for long distances or throw things really far, they are an integral gear of the track and field machine. Maybe they’re not "the norm." Maybe they’re the last thing you think of when you hear track and field. Maybe it looks so easy a caveman could do it. But I will tell you one thing: if you watch them perform you’ll be pleasantly surprised how athletic these men and women are.