Dear Pole Vault

April 24, 2012
By Anonymous

Dear Pole Vault,
I know we’ve only known each other for a few weeks but I can already tell that I really like you. I know that you won’t be able to read this, but that’s okay. Maybe, someday, I’ll read this to you.
I think that my sister pole vaulted in track, that is how I learned your name. I never really thought much about you after that, but every year when track came about, I would steal a glance your way. Standing at the high jump pit, I would stop and stare when nobody was looking. I apologize if that seems a bit creepy to you. That is just the way it was. I was intrigued; you had struck a nerve. I needed to know how the whole pole vaulting thing worked. How does one jump? Is it scary? Do they really go upside-down on the pole? It amazed me to no end.
But that was back in middle school, back when I struggled to manage running long distance and high jumping; these two events conflicted with each other. Now I’m a big bad high school kid, and I vowed this year to learn your trade, and try my hardest to master it.
This is the first year I’ve vaulted. I started right at the beginning of track; I had a slight head start on the other new learners. The coach taught me the basics, and left me to play with it for a day. The next day, I practiced more of the basics, and then…I got to jump.
At first, it was awkward. Mind you, it was very awkward. I jumped to the wrong side of the pole; you can go either right or left. If you’re right-handed, go right; left-handed, go left. I am right handed. I went left. You had tricked me, but that was to be expected. I’m sure you don’t often have new people calling; you might as well have a bit of fun while they are still green. But, luckily, Coach Cain told both Caressa, who had been doing it wrong as well, and I what to do to fix it. We immediately began to pick up on the correct habits. Right side of the pole, drive your right knee, keep your arms straight.
In the beginning, my friend, we were simply planting the pole and swinging ourselves up onto the mat. But soon, Cain taught us to invert. He brought us over to the ropes that keep you company when you are confined to the gym, the two that are normally tethered to the wall. He took them down and gave one over to us, but kept the other in his hand. He told us to watch what he does. He gripped the rope tightly in his hands and swung his body up, parallel with the rope. He hung there for just a moment, and then slowly let his body fall back to a normal, upright position. He told us that this is what must happen when we are on the pole. He took the rope in his hands once more, and jumped up again. This time I noticed the little things: His right knee drove up until just the right moment, then his left leg swung up to join his right knee. His body straightened out to match the rope, and then his right leg crossed over his left just slightly, just enough to turn him around. That was new to this time, he hadn’t done that before. He landed heavily this time, with a thud. He explained to us that after we invert, we need to cross our legs over so that we will turn around.
Cain gave us free reign of the ropes. The first time I tried it, I went completely upside down, my body hugged the rope and I spun around with the force of my jump. I caught a glimpse of you, the red of the mat flashed past my eyes. A grin split my face in two, and I started giggling. This small amount of laughter turned into raucous peals of fully fledged laughter. Whether it was from the crazy twirling my upside down body was enduring or the red blips that kept passing my sight, I will never know. I just know that I liked this laughter, so either option was fine with me.
I learned more about you, about your tendencies, and faults, and secrets that I know you wouldn’t have told me yourself. I started running at you with greater speed, less caution. A bigger distance separated us at first, but that distance was shattered once I started running to you; you with your arms open wide, waiting to catch me the moment gravity remembered its job.
Nowadays we are outside and everything is so different, yet it all remains the same. I wear spikes now, and I feel bad for stabbing your mat every time I jump. I’ve moved up on the pole, I have a lot more bend now compared to indoors, and now I have to compete with the elements. Even with everything that is different and the same, easier and harder, exciting and boring, I still love the sport that you are.
I know that we sometimes have difficulties with one another. We fight constantly, especially on windy days. I accept that; I think it will make me a better pole vaulter. Sometimes I get spiked while trying to learn more about drive or form. I currently have two spike marks from you and a welt on my arm. The bar is unforgiving when I miss; sometimes it seems almost abusive. But when I conquer that bar, oh that feeling is unbeatable! So we can fight all we want, or don’t want, I will still try my hardest to overcome everything you can throw at me.
This year, I was going to do one thing and one thing only in track. Jump. This was to be my life; high jump and pole vault, pole vault and high jump. I was going to focus solely on these two events, and on the form and technique to make me improve. But other things are trying to get in the way. Coach Wothe, the high jump coach, figured that it would be good if I ran something, a sprint, to make me faster. If I become faster, then I can put more power into my jumps. Most jumpers are, after all, sprinters. I, however, am a distance runner. But I figured that I should give it a shot, it would help in both my main events and it shouldn’t take up much time; after all, it is only a sprint.
First, they put me in a 4x100 meter relay. I ran, approximately, a 13 second 100, I can’t quite remember the exact number. Apparently that is fast, I have absolutely no idea, as I am accustomed to distance times. So they decided to put me in a 4x200 meter relay to see if I could run that fast as well. Apparently I did. After the race was finished, I went back to the team’s tent and began to take off my spikes. Jessi, who was on my 4x200 team, asked a coach what her time was. I called over asking her to find out my time. Jessi is a long time sprinter, she ran a 29.9; I had never run a 200-meter race in my life, and I ran it in 27 seconds. I walked over to Mrs. Coach Wothe, the female head coach of the track team, and she hugged me and shook me a bit. When she let go she was smiling ear to ear, she seemed so absolutely excited. I was quite confused, until she began telling me how fantastic that 200 was, and how she had no idea I was that quick. I just smiled and nodded, I had no idea I was fast either, I had felt slow. She was just so excited about my fast time; she started telling me about how I would probably be on the varsity 4x200 team, the fancy one that had potential to go to state. I was excited for a moment, but then I grew worried. I began to think of the possibility that the coaches would try to make me a better sprinter, when I was trying to be a better jumper. I became concerned that they would try to take me away from you during practices, try to steal me away and just have me sprint all the time. I knew I would still get to jump in meets, but I was concerned about practices! I was a seemingly good sprinter without any practice at all; why shouldn’t I just be able to continue to jump all of practice and wing it during meets? So far, I haven’t had a practice to test out whether or not the coaches will make me sprint or if I will continue to jump. I am nervous for that day, however.
No matter what happens with sprinting, you will always be my first and foremost on the track list. I am only running this single race for you, so I can become a better jumper. Some try to convince me that I am a sprinter now, but I will always deny it. I am simply someone who sprints to jump. If I had to make a decision, I would choose you. You are my all, my everything, and I am so glad I found you.
Much Love,
The Jumper

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