An average jump in pole vault takes less than 20 seconds from the start of the runway to landing on the mat. The swiftness and grace the pole vaulters posses gives the impression that anyone can pick it up within a few months of training. However, the athleticism seen in the vaulters has only been achieved through years of repetition.
Biola’s current vaulting team is made up of seniors Nicole Falkenstein and Brandon Mancini at the helm, and four freshman filling out the rest of the roster. A youthful team does not equal little experience. Three of the freshmen have been competing since their freshman year of high school, and Holton Whitman started in the seventh grade.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
“A lot of people assume that they are going to flip upside down by bending a pole, but it’s years of dedication and a lot more work than it looks,” vaulting coach JT Ellis said. “It’s like 70 percent mental. So you can have a mental day and just be completely off despite having perfect conditions that would say otherwise.”
One small mistake in the process of takeoff can be detrimental to the jump. The vaulters spend their practices working on their approach, the final steps, plant, and the swing over the pole. It is the time to break bad habits and create stronger ones from the ground up.
“There’s always room for improvement, you can never find yourself at a climax and say ‘I’ve figured it out, I’ve got it all down.’ There’s always going to be things to work on,” said senior Brandon Mancini. “And that’s the refreshing thing about it is that there are always things to improve in order to jump higher.”
THE RIGHT MENTAL STATE
The final run-throughs at the meet are similar to practice, with small changes in the pole size and distance to run. During this time, getting into the right mental aspect of the event is placed at a high importance.
“Obviously in meet situations your mind gets a little bit different,” Ellis said. “You get more pumped, you have to put your step back, and you have a bigger pole. So you just vary with those changes and do what you can with those changes and try to maintain the proper form we’ve been working on.”
Being in the right mental state is crucial to having a good jump. Although each form of mental preparation varies between every vaulter on the team, the theme within each is confidence.
“You can’t really give it any less than your all. You have to put everything you can into it and you have to be confident that everything you have is going to be enough,” Mancini said. “Having the confidence in your vault, knowing that you’re going to succeed and training to push yourself no matter how you feel is the toughest part.”
A CLOSE-KNIT BOND
All the hours that have been put into practicing together creates a close-knit bond between the vaulters of the team.
“Since we’re all here so much, you see everybody’s really highs and lows and you are able to be with each other through it all,” said freshman Christina Clark.
In the end, the thrill of the jump and seeing all of the hard work come to completion makes the hours spent practicing one thing over and over again worth it.
“It’s a lot of fun when you are having a good day,” Whitman said. “When you are having a bad day it’s very frustrating and stuff, but when you are having a good day there’s almost nothing like it.”