It’s been a long time coming

So I would just like to start of that after my suboptimal year last year, I kind of forgot that this blog existed…whoops!

Well If you haven’t heard already, I PRed for the first time in 3 and a half years at the beginning of the month. May 27th, 2009 I cleared 10′ for the first time. I then proceeded to do silly things like sprain my ankle and pull my hamstring (most likely a result of having to compensate for my ankle) consecutive years resulting in hitting a stand still in my vault. Then, I went off to college, but the UMass track team had tome budget issues so I didnt have an indoor season and then who ever heard of nice weather in New England in the spring? Nonetheless, I still almost PRed last spring, so by this year, I knew it was bound to happen. I wasn’t expecting it so soon though.

At the beginning of the month, there was the Smith meet. A bunch of us decided to show up and compete unattached for fun since our first real meet isn’t until January 11th. However, since we weren’t competing for UMass, Jackson isn’t allowed to be there so we were left coaching each other and unsurprisingly none of us really have a coach’s eye. Anyways, I won the meet at 10′ so I decided to put the bar to 10’3″ since I had more confidence in that. After 10’3, I went to 10’6, but at that point i was too amped up from already PRing and tired from already having taken a bunch of jumps so they weren’t the best of attempts. I have since cleanly cleared a 10’6 bungee, not that that counts though. I am quite pumped for the way that this season is looking.

Anyways, feel good story so I’m not just talking about my PR. Last year we had Chrissy (the princess of pole vault) jumping 11+ feet and budget issues, so as a result Chrissy was the only female pole vaulter to make the indoor travel roster. Outdoors though, I was given a chance to jump and compete on the travel roster. Sure I did decent last spring considering I was a freshman and freshmen rarely jump right in and get considerably better right away since there soo many differences between high school track and college track and high school and college in general. But yet, at the same time I really wasn’t happy because I knew that that wasn’t really good enough to be able to stay on the team. This fall I came back and had no intentions of giving up though, Even though I had to show up to practice an hour late 3 days a week, I gave the workouts everything I had. As a result and probably combined with the fact that the season hasn’t even started and I have already PRed, I have earned myself a spot on the intersession list, and as long as I keep performing well, I will get to have a full indoor season.

Sooo yeah… we’ll see how this goes!

20

12 2012

Hiatus? No problem!

I’m not super sure if this is legal/kosher, but I’m writing in the college section even though I’m out of college. I’m back in the vault and that’s all that matters, right?

The last time I attended a pole vault practice was in 2010 under my coach at the time, Patrick Swett. At that point, being a full time graphic design student (6 hour day of classes M-F), A student athlete, and playing in a band out in Boston twice a week chalked up to not sleeping or being able to afford rent. I had to let one of them go, and track had to be it. It was really difficult for me, but I had to do it and stopped during winter break 2010-2011. Since then, I hadn’t been near a pole.

But then….

Ingrid and I found out we were neighbors in Somerville/Arlington and went out for ice cream one day. She let me know about all the vault opportunities in the area and I was too interested to not attend at least one this month.

It’s been almost two years since my track resignation, but I’ve stayed in shape and have even been doing hurdles in the meantime. You can’t keep me away.

So yesterday, I took a road trip with Ingrid and Dan Conti out to Shirley for some 360 Gymnastic PV training. IT WAS THE BOMB.COM.

It felt so great to get off the stupid earth again and up where only few dare to go on a stick. After the first couple of shaky jumps and 4 pole-switches, I felt like I hadn’t stopped. Just like riding a bike! Turns out two years is nothing if you keep up a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly. If you were ever a vaulter and can still run somewhat in control, it’s not too late!

A big thanks to Doug and Patriot PV for making this wonderful opportunity more readily available to athletes in New England. It felt great to be back after all this time but truthfully, if it weren’t for Patriot, I never would have left the ground. It’s an amazing privilege.

I’ll try to stay this time 😛

-Sambo

02

07 2012

The end of my season and so far this summer

I’d have to start out by saying my outdoor season was really bittersweet this year. There were SO many great things about my outdoor season that I am thankful and excited about. First and foremost, the addition of Coach Ken to the WPI vault crew. Finally having a consistent vault coach three times a week for the first time since my senior year of high school was the highlight of my season. The guidance and support was invaluable and I’m not just saying that because Coach Ken feeds us tasty things once a week! There were many physical and mental breakthroughs for me as well this spring, which went hand in hand with finally having a coach there to really critique and figure out what I needed to do to get better. I mentioned in previous posts about my epiphany about getting my hands up, but I also finally stopped (most jumps anyways) my terrible habit of round-housing my plant.

I’ll have to admit that my season did end on a bitter, frustrating note. If anyone saw me at NEWMACs (which thank goodness wasn’t -that- many people) you would have seen me miss my final attempt at 9’6″, a height that would have qualified me for DIII New Englands and extended my season, and march angrily away from the pole vault area.  I was upset with myself for not making a height I had made several times every season since 2009, for not extending my season (this was the first year that I didn’t make either indoor and outdoor DIII New Englands,) and for not living up to Coach Ken’s expectations. After I was gone maybe 15 minutes, my mother came to find me. We talked about why I was upset and my mom helped me see the light that it wasn’t a wasted year. Having watched me from my terrible beginner season to now, she told me this is the best form she has seen me in, and that I should be proud of my progress, even though it hasn’t translated to a new PR. She also brought up that this is the best shape she has seen me in, something I have struggled with since I graduated high school, when my HS coach told me I needed to slim down more if I wanted to be a serious vaulter in college. I also obviously talked to Coach Ken after that and even though I felt I had let him down, he assured me that progress had been made and that he was proud of what I had accomplished.

I took a week and a half away from the pit after NEWMACs to clear my head a bit. I thought it would be too painful to practice with the girls who were about to head to DIII New Englands and that it would spark those feelings of being inadequate again. When I did finally return to the runway, Coach Ken and I decided to try something new- going after that pesky free take-off I had never attempted before. We moved my step back the prescribed amount and it was magical. After the first attempt at that new take-off mark, Coach Ken looked at me and apologized for not thinking of that pre-NEWMACs so I could have gotten that 9’6″.

It was one of those moments where I just thought, wow, it would have been great to have known this then, but I never would have learned to deal with how I felt after not doing well at a big meet for me. That was the same day that I tweeted “Hands on fire, forearm bruise growing and I’m loving it. These are the days that I fall I love with polevault all over again.” And it’s true – through the frustration, the improvements, the failures and the epiphanies, I keep falling in love with the pole vault.

 

So, since my season has ended, a lot has happened. I’ve dabbled here and there in workouts, some insanity work outs, some lifting, some runs, but I didn’t do anything “serious” or “consistent” until this week. Like I said last time I was here on Nantucket, the gym is astronomically expensive. For three months, the local gym is $385, and as much as I want to be lifting, there is no way I am paying that much. Instead, I’ve started my own weird workout schedule. There isn’t much planned yet, but essentially I’m trying to get in a good mix of “distance”, sprinting, abs, arms and legs (if anyone wants to help me out with the legs things, that would be great. I’m having a mental block.) I put distance in quotes because I have never really run that far before. I feel like I need to ease my body into it. So, I have started doing a 1.2 mile loop, which has a nice big 200m hill in it, and once I do this for about two weeks (on my distance days) I’m going to up it to maybe 1.8 miles or something and keep going up once I feel comfortable at the distance. My sprints are currently 7x100m sprints, ever so slightly up hill. I’m aiming to do the sprints twice a week and my WPI coach wants us up to 10x100m sprints by the time august rolls around, so every few weeks I’ll add another 100m rep.

Essentially, I want 11 ft really badly. Not just 10 ft, which has been my goal since 2009, but I want something big. I want to go out my graduating season with a bang. To help inspire me, I made my own twitter hashtag to use when I’m doing workouts #11fttakeswork :)

 

Wow, that was probably the longest post I’ve ever written, and probably just sounds like a lot of jumbled thoughts. I hope ya’ll enjoy :)

 

14

06 2012

Junior Year

I apologize for not posting in forever. It has been an extremely stressful semester. My classes were insane; I’ve never studied so much in my life. I ended up with a 3.667 GPA for the semester though, so I was happy with that. I was not so happy, however, with how vaulting went this year. That’s another reason why I haven’t posted in forever. I didn’t want to just be a Debbie Downer. So I’m going to try to keep this post as positive as possible. My season PR this year was 3.82m (about 12’6”), last year’s PR was 4.06m (about 13’4”). This year 3.85m qualified for regionals and 4.05m qualified for nationals. Needless to say, I was disappointed. If I was vaulting like I was last year I could have potentially made nationals this year. Instead, I didn’t even make regionals.
Honestly, I screwed myself over the second I heard that Brenner was leaving. Once I got over the initial shock I remember my very first thought being, “Well, there goes my season. So much for clearing 14’ before I graduate.” Well with an attitude like that, nothing is going to go well. Unfortunately, I learned that the hard way. All season I knew it was just my head holding me back, but I just couldn’t seem to shake it.
But next year is a new year. It’s my last year, so I’m not going to let anything hold me back. The coaching situation for next year is still entirely up in the air. But I’m not going to let that bother me this time. I know I know how to vault. And darn it all, I’m good at it. So regardless, of who we have for a coach, I’m just going to have fun and jump high!
Moral of the story: attitude is everything. I know it’s cliché to say, but it’s true. We vault because we love it. And this summer I’m going to enjoy vaulting again, regardless of how high I’m going. Good luck to all you high schoolers going into championship season!

25

05 2012

The End.

Friday  afternoon at the New England Championships at MIT was a strange day.

“Hey,” I said to one of the long jumpers for the UMass men’s team, “Happy Graduation Day.”

A handful of us seniors were missing our Commencement ceremony to compete that day.  This was something we all expected when coming into our senior year, but I didn’t expect the mixed feelings that came along with our decision to compete instead of attending Commencement.  What if I don’t do well today? Will I regret missing the big hurrah of Commencement?  Even though New Englands is my favorite meet of the year, there was still a part of me that felt a pull back to Amherst.  A part of me wanted to experience the fun energy of a huge Commencement Ceremony, to feel like all the other students.

The weather was awful during warm-ups. It was windy and had passing showers.  I was finally able to jump well on 13ft poles during practice that week, but with the wind and my wrist still being injured I had a hard time controlling the pole during my approach.  It was painful.  I got nervous.  What if I couldn’t do this? Is this really how I was going to end my college career?

Oddly enough by the time competition started, the sky cleared.  The afternoon sun was shining.  The wind died down.  I had gotten my wrist taped up and by the time I started jumping the worries melted away.  I came in at 11’2″, cleared it first attempt–already the highest height I had jumped all season.  My confidence was back up and I was having fun.  I jumped 11’8″ that day for 7th place, the highest height I jump all season, an outdoor PR, and moved up to 4th all-time in the UMass record books.

After my last attempt at 12’2″–a height I’d desperately wanted since beginning my college vaulting career–the waterworks began.  It wasn’t because I didn’t get 12ft, but it was the end.  As vaulters, we all know the bar has to fall eventually.  We know the phrase, “All good things must come to an end”, but it doesn’t take away the reality of the moment when you do realize that it’s over.  In a strange fit of laughing, smiling, and crying, I hugged my parents and thanked them for coming to the meet.

I also looked around at the other coaches and officials–many of them who still cheered me on and supported me throughout my college career despite wearing different school colors.  Many of these folks had watched me grow into the young woman I am today from the little Fitchburg High School freshman.  It was special to me.  Here was a network of people that I loved being a part of and enjoyed seeing season after season.  Even though I was missing Commencement, I still brought my cap and gown to the meet.  It was my own little graduation.  It seemed fitting to have not just my family, but my pole vault family there to celebrate with me.

Strangely enough, it still didn’t hit me that it was over until the UMass Athletics website did a write up of Day 1 of New Englands.  When I read the sentence, “Chrissy Silvar finished her career…” it felt like a punch in the gut.  Wow.  That’s it.  It’s over.

Reflecting back on my time vaulting in college, I could easily be disappointed in not achieving all my goals–especially not getting 12ft.     But I’ve still done so many cool things:

  • Scoring in every single conference championship I’ve ever competed in, Northeast 10 and Atlantic 10.
  • Scoring at the New England Championships 3 times.
  • 2009-2010 Indoor NE-10 Conference Champion in the Women’s Pole Vault.
  • Breaking the UMass Lowell school record for indoor (11’2″) and outdoor (11′)
  • Sitting at 4th All-Time in the Women’s Pole Vault record books in both indoor (11’10”) and outdoor (11’8″)

But pole vault isn’t just about the numbers.  I’m not walking around with my statistics posted to my forehead.  I’ve gained so much more from vaulting in college than I ever would if I was just a regular student…

  • Patience.
  • Perseverance.
  • The importance of your attitude
  • Balance–mental & physical, work & rest, school & track…
  • Happiness–taking charge of a situation and changing it to what you need.
  • Communication–especially through athlete and coach relationships

I’ve also gained a great group of friends from both universities I’ve attended and the support of many others from different schools along the way.

Even though I felt like I wanted to attend Commencement just like every other student graduating that day, I realize–I am not like every other student.  My college experience was not like those students.  As much as I would like to give words of wisdom at the end of my college career–I can’t.  The only thing I can stress is that your experience will not be like mine.  It will not be like anyone else’s.  It will only be your own.  It’s what you make of it.  And I’ll be checking back to read those posts.

Now here’s the time for the thank yous:

To my family: Thank you for traveling to meets whenever you could.  I can only count on one hand the number of meets you have missed.  Thank you for always believing in me and supporting me no matter what–and being my own personal cheering section!

To the coaches at UMass Lowell:  Thank you for seeing potential in a scrawny little sprinter from Fitchburg and welcoming her to your team.  Even though it didn’t work out due to injuries and changing priorities, thank you for supporting my decision to go to UMass Amherst and still being some of the loudest cheers at the meets.

To Coach Jackson, UMass Amherst: Thank you for being the most incredible coach and person I have ever worked with.  You have not only made me into a better athlete and pole vaulter, but also a better person.  Thank you for investing your valuable time and energy into my development on and off the runway.  I hope to be just as passionate and committed to coaching as you are one day.

To my teammates, UMass Lowell & UMass Amherst: I was blessed with the experience of being a part of two teams representing the state of Massachusetts.  I’m grateful for the lessons you all have taught me at different points in my college experience.  I am very happy to call many of you my closest friends.

And last but not least, to Patriot Pole Vault Club: You are the backbone to my vaulting experience.  Without your support, the whole structure would crumble.  Allowing me to attend practices when I didn’t have a coach, giving me the opportunity to explore my own coaching abilities, and going above and beyond in every way possible.  Thank you for the opportunity to share my story for five years with this blog.  I always used these posts as an opportunity to gather my thoughts and take away learning experiences from each meet, injury, struggle, and accomplishment.  Thank you for your help in creating such a huge network of support throughout New England and helping pole vault grow.

16

05 2012

My Last Conference Meet.

If you were to look at the results of the women’s pole vault at the A10 Championships and look for Christine Silvar, the height next to it may look like I choked under pressure.  The funny thing is, I don’t feel that way at all.

Putting on my UMass track uniform that morning, I couldn’t even start to describe the emotions I was feeling.  I thought I’d be more sad or nervous with the pressure to go out with a bang for my last conference meet–but I wasn’t.  I didn’t feel that at all.  Sure, I recognized the importance of this day, but I was more excited.  I had a great pre-meet the day before.  I felt well rested.  I worried a little bit that maybe I was losing my competitive edge or wasn’t focused enough to really compete the way I should be.

When driving to our home track, I had realized that this was the first A10 Championship meet for the other two vaulters, Alyssa & Rachel.  I got excited for them but also recognized the nerves that come along with being in your first collegiate conference meet.  As many times as we joke about my “old age” and Super Senior status, this was the first time I realized how much experience I have gained in competing these past four years.  Not only did I want to be an example for them, but I was also able to fully understand the calm feeling I had coming into the meet.  I was just ready.

It’s hard not to get excited when the championship is held at home.  Friends, family, classmates, staff and faculty watching.  Taking pride in our facility that holds the history of training for this moment (even if most of the other teams think it’s awful).  Some may find it overstimulating or distracting.  Some may need the rush of traveling and feeling out of their element to succeed.  I didn’t feel this way at all.  I was very happy to be at home.

If you ever go to UMass Amherst’s track & field facility, you will find that the seating plan to view some events is terrible–at least to watch the pole vault.  For smaller meets, spectators are allowed to line the inside of the chain-link fence on the pole vault side.  They could not do that for this meet.  Instead of looking to my family’s usual spot before the meet, I had to settle for not knowing where they were until after I was done competing.

Until I heard cheers from the fence…

From left to right: my brother, Stevie; his girlfriend, Lisa; my mom (and her dog); my dad; my stepdad, Mike; my roommate, Cassy; and her boyfriend, Russ

“Are those punks trying to jump the fence?!” Coach Jackson was concerned, not yet recognizing the faces from far away.

“No, Coach,” I sighed, “that’s my family…”

Frustrated by viewing the pole vault from so far away, they pulled my stepfather’s pickup truck behind the fence and stood in the bed of the truck while poking their heads up over the fence.  The fact that they were perfectly positioned behind the Massachusetts banner was icing on the cake.  They brought loud cheers and were adorned in UMass gear, even a maroon bow in the dog’s hair. As crazy as it looked, I couldn’t help but smile. How could that kind of support not make you feel thankful?

My warm ups felt great.  I was only jumping on 12ft poles because of my wrist.  I just hadn’t been able to jump on 13ft poles because of it–but I had them on standby just in case.  I had work on and focus on a few things: like having a tall approach to have a taller take-off.  I had gotten much better at that from the few tweaks I made in each warm up jump.  I decided to come in at 10’8.25″ and felt ready to rock.  That was the only height I would clear that day.

Having a personal best of 11’11″, striving so badly for 12′ by the time I graduate, and with time winding down, you would think that I would be more upset about jumping 10’8.25″—but I’m not.  At all.  I had jumped well.  I felt great.  I executed each of Coach Jackson’s critiques after each jump.  I improved each time.  I was even starting to turn while jumping!  But the bar still fell.  My last attempt at 11’2″, when the bar dropped down on to the pit, I looked over at Coach Jackson with his hands on his head pursing his lips in frustration.

“You moved the pole so much better that time!” with a strange tone of disappointment and excitement–I couldn’t tell which one.  He was more upset than I was.

I just sort of shrugged my shoulders in an “oh well” fashion.

Later that day he added, “Those were some good jumps.  That’s some pretty good progress to set you up for next week.”

I was approached by teammates and alumni after.  They expected to console an upset girl when they saw the results.  They all had, “What happened?” written across their face.  A part of me thought that maybe I should be more upset.  I got worried.  Am I just done with pole vault? Am I over it? Do I not love it as much as I used to?  Did I really let the team down?  I answered no to all these questions and refused to let anyone make me think that I gave less than my best.

I didn’t walk away jumping 12ft.  I didn’t walk away A10 Champion.  But I can say I was focused.  I was motivated.  I even had fun.  Heck, I still scored with a tie for 7th place–something I didn’t expect at all.

And what’s the point of beating yourself up when you gave everything? There isn’t one.

I still have my favorite meet next weekend, New Englands!  I will be competing Friday afternoon, missing the big commencement ceremony at UMass, but I will be back for the Senior Recognition Ceremony for the college of Humanities and Fine Arts.

See you at MIT this Friday!!

08

05 2012

Time’s a Tickin’…

My last post on here was about living in the moment, not getting too stressed out, and focusing on enjoying these last few weeks.

Well…I had a little trouble with that.

A few weeks ago at practice, I was asked to try jumping on a 13’7″ 145 pole.  My eyes bugged out a bit when he asked me, but with my new pseudo what-have-I-got-to-lose attitude I went for it.  First jump: shot straight up into the air and stayed put, trying to lean the pole to a safe landing spot.  Thankfully, this was the side of the pit.  Second jump: Same thing, but crashed onto the runway landing on my wrist and thumb.  He told me to try the 13’7″ 135 and at this point I was mad.  I was determined to complete a jump on that damn pole!  I was a little too determined, refusing to think, and took off 2 FEET outside, curled that pole in half and before I knew it Coach Jackson was catching me.  Oops.

After a bit of, “What were you thinking?!” I fought back.  It was a lose/lose.  I could have either chickened out and ran through or I could have gone for it.

Unfortunately, crashing down on the runway messed my hand up more than expected.  The next morning I couldn’t even move it.  After seeing the trainers, they sent me for X-rays.  They thought I broke my wrist.

When the doctor read my X-rays, he explained, “Well, you didn’t break it, but you might have broken it…”

“What?”

“You could still have a break in your sesamoid bone that has to get worse before we can actually see it…but if it doesn’t hurt, keep jumping!”

That’s all I needed to hear.  The upcoming meet was Senior Day and there was no way I was missing it.  They still put me in a splint/cast for the rest of the week that I only wore when I wasn’t jumping or working out.  I was rocking’ the Club Hand.

Senior Day/UMass Invitational came and I tried to jump.  We taped my wrist and thumb, I warmed up, and my jumps were crap.  Absolute crap.  Coach Jackson pulled me aside.

“Look, if your jumps are gonna keep looking like this I’m gonna pull you–so make up your mind.  Either jump or not.  If you’re not, start doing some starts for the 100m…”

The 100? THE 100? My event is not the damn 100m dash.  I’m a VAULTER.  I VAULT, and dammit, I was jumping on my stupid senior day!  I had one decent warm up jump and he kept me in.

In the meet, the jumps were still ugly.  My wrist didn’t feel strong enough and when I did jump it would throb the instant I hit the pit.  I was being too stubborn.  I should have sat out.  I only jumped 10’6″ to get 3rd or 4th place that day–which I wasn’t happy with–but everyone kept calling me a trooper for still jumping on a broken wrist.  A trooper? Or an idiot?

This is when I really started to flail a bit and panic.  My season could be done. I could have a broken wrist.  I can’t even get into the damn pit on my jumps anymore and I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years! What’s wrong with me? Am I completely losing it?  And my whole damn body hurts!  My hips won’t stay aligned.  I’m at the chiropractor’s almost every week–why is it all ending this way?!

Now before you go calling me a drama queen, I need to explain something a bit.  You see, there’s an conflicting perception of time when you’re a graduating senior.  It seems like the entire world around you can’t stop focusing on the fact that you’re graduating–even a month or so before you’re even close to taking your finals.  They seem eager to push you out the door into the real world when you still haven’t finished the task at hand.  Family and friends all get excited about your accomplishment even before you’ve actually accomplished it.  Questions come up like, “What are you doing after graduation?” that make you want to punch them square in the face when you don’t have anything to say.  It’s as if they completely fast-forward to the end of the film.  It’s not that you’re afraid of venturing out and moving on, you’re just not done yet!

I have a strange image of it.  I sort of feel like it’s this annoying little child that tugs and pulls at their mom’s clothes or purse while she’s having a conversation with another adult.  Sure, the mom can put up with it for so long, until she snaps.

“STOP IT, Jimmy–Mommy’s not done yet!”

It gets to you.  I assume you love your kid and all, but you’re in the middle of something else.  It’s not that you’re being irresponsible and ignoring the inevitable future/child, you’re just not done what you’re in the middle of.  I don’t care how tough your skin is, some days it’s going to get to you.  With everyone around you being your nagging child or a reminder of the quickly passing time, it’s hard not to snap.  It changes the way you look at things and suddenly you watch the ticking clock like everything is stopping much sooner than it really is.

After vault practice one day, I was upset that I still wasn’t completing jumps and could only focus on drives.  An entire practice of drives.  It felt good to work on basics again and get a good handle on those, but that ticking clock was still in the back of my mind.  As I was about to drive home with tears streaming down my face, Coach Jackson looked at me and said, “You still have plenty of time.”

What? Plenty of time? He was the only person that had said that to me in the past month or so.

They kept me home from the Holy Cross Invitational that weekend.  I’m going to say it was for my wrist, but I realize now it was to get my head on straight.  After that weekend I woke up one day and just felt…fine.  I’m not really sure what happened.  Maybe I needed some rest?  Maybe I needed to step back and clear my head?  Who knows, but Monday morning was different.  This week at practice I only focused on the tasks right in front of me, not anything after.  I completed the last bit of my assignments and watched the to-do list come down to a list of my finals schedule.  At practice I jumped on 12′ poles and did drills—over and over…and over….and over.  I finally cleared some bars and felt like my old self again.

This weekend is the Pre-Conference Meet at UNH and I’m excited to be back in action, despite the strange clicking sound my wrist makes now…

27

04 2012

In the Moment.

Just one more season left in my collegiate career.  Just one.  Where did the time go?  I even had a 5th year and it still went by so fast!

Yesterday was the start of our outdoor season at American International College’s Yellowjacket Invitational.  Before coming into this meet, I had a very emotional week.  I had a long list of things I was upset about: not succeeding in my transition to a 6 step approach, stressed from looking ahead of all the assignments crammed into only 3 more weeks of classes, and still trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do after I graduate.  I was losing sleep.  I was unable to clear my head for practices and unable to perform even the smallest of tasks–I was just flat out exhausted.  I wasn’t even motivated to do my night-before-a-meet routine–something I always look forward to.  Because of that, I had no idea how this meet was going to go.

This meet was also different because I wasn’t just pole vaulting. I was running in the 100m dash for the first time since my senior year of high school.

Men’s vault was first, so I sat around for a while with the other vaulters.  I was kind of out of it.  I didn’t feel like myself at all.  I usually abide by Coach Jackson’s rule for no phones or having phones off while we were at the meet, but I heard my phone ring.  I had gotten a text and snuck a look in my bag.  It was one of my closest friends and former UMass vaulter Lindsey Pfau.  After she graduated last year, she moved down to Tallahassee for grad school.

“When are you jumping?”

“Soon,” I shot a text back, “Men went first.”  Then I shut my phone off and zipped my bag shut to try and focus.

The men’s vault was finishing up when I looked up past the track and saw a tiny little blond girl waving.

“Wait…” I heard behind me, “Isn’t that…?”

“Oh my god.  It’s Lindsey!”

I shot right up and wanted to run across the runway and track to see her–but instead we had to wait for a race to run by, wait for a vaulter to jump, and then we were finally together jumping and hugging.  I started crying.  It was such a great surprise!

The women’s vault started and I passed to come in at 10’6″.  I had to run the 100m dash first.  I was heat 5, lane 5.  It was the last heat of the race.  Since I hadn’t run that race since 2007, I guess they didn’t really know where to put me.  It was myself and two other girls.  To give you an idea of the level of competition I was up against: the official had to ask one of the other competitors to “please put your hands behind the starting line.”  I had to work so hard to hold in my laughter and stay in the blocks.  I finished the race almost a full 2 seconds faster.  That race had all my friends and family cracking up.  I had heard I ran like a vaulter that lost her way–and her pole.

It was finally time to vault and I was the last competitor when I came in at 10’6″.  Running the 100m screwed up my run a bit and it was all off.  Take off’s were sloppy.  I wasn’t moving my top hand at all.  I won the meet with 11′ (okay, 10’11.75″).  On my last attempt at 11’6″, I looked over to Coach Jackson across the track and we both threw up our hands, “Eh, next time.”

It was nice to walk away with a win even if I wasn’t thrilled with the height, but I didn’t care about results from that meet.  Competing outside in the sunshine, my return to sprinting after about 5 years, Lindsey’s surprise appearance, and other encouraging words from teammates and other alumni after the meet, I was reminded of something much more important.  Springtime is supposed to be fun.  Outdoor track comes at a wonderful time of year with celebrations, banquets, and other exciting moments to close out the school year.  I shouldn’t let my worries overshadow the fun stuff that comes along with being a senior and graduating.

These are my last few moments at UMass and being in a UMass uniform.  I’m never going to get this back.  I look at my friends and teammates that graduated last year and could have sworn it was just yesterday that they were here doing all of this.  Now it’s my turn.  I’m thankful that they’ve taken the time to reach out to me during the most stressful–but wonderful–time in my life so far because they know exactly how it feels.  They’ve reminded me that everything I’m worrying about now is going to work out eventually.  I just need to live in the moment a little more instead.

08

04 2012

Just a quick update…

I apologize for the delay in entries for the end of indoor track.  Life got a little hectic.  As crazy as it was, it was still a very exciting time with mixed emotions and personal achievements.

My favorite meet of the season, New England Championships, went well.  I finished with 8th place, but my body was screaming for a break.  My lower back, hips, and legs were just shot.  I was lucky to even make it down the runway.  As tired and achy as I was, it was nice to see everyone at the meet.

I was kind of falling apart by the end of indoor track. This is the ice/wrap combo/diaper the trainers at BU put together for me to ice my hips, SI joints, and lower back.

ECACs was a new experience for me.  I had no idea what to expect.  It was kind of cool to be the only jumper representing UMass and I was just happy to be there.  It was strange to have Coach Jackson’s undivided attention though–I’m so used to him running around to all the other jumpers’ events.  When I found out that opening height was the qualifying height–the highest height I have ever made in my life–I didn’t even get nervous.  It was more of a “Well, here goes nothing.”  Again, I was just happy to make it down to the pit.  My body was just not responding the way it needed to–double leg swing, round-house plant–and overall hurting.  I ended up no-heighting that day, but as my mom seems to keep repeating, “It’s an honor just to be nominated…” (I explain that it’s not a ‘nomination’, but she still says it anyway).

That was it.  Last indoor season over.  I’ll admit it, I teared up. Not because I no-heighted, but because it was the first reality that my college career was coming to a close.  There isn’t a “well, there’s always next year”.  I’m happy that it was the best season I’ve had so far.  I was still upset that I didn’t get 12ft for indoor, but I’ve come a long way from last year’s indoor season: I went from placing 8th to 4th at A10s, an indoor PR of 11’3″ to 11’10”, from no place to 8th place at New Englands, and qualifying for ECACs for the first time.

And now we are in between seasons.  With our first outdoor meet around the corner, I can’t believe that the training went by so quickly.  After a week and a half of rest, recovery, and multiple tune-up trainer’s appointments, I felt back to normal.  I stayed in town over spring break and worked out with Coach Jackson learning some new things for outdoor.  That’s already a huge improvement from last year.  This time last year I was recovering from a broken nose and concussion.

One of the biggest changes we’re making is that I will be moving back to 6 steps.  I’ve been doing 5 steps since I started vaulting, and will admit, I feel a little silly with the shortest approach at most of the meets we go to (except for when I place with only 5 steps–that feels great!).

A 6 step approach is a HUGE change for me.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around it.  The rhythm is different.  The sounds are different.  I know the last three steps are the same, but it’s getting to those three steps that throws me off.  I’ve had to run it about a BILLION times over this last week and a half and it finally is starting to feel a bit more natural.  The biggest thing I had to get used to was the speed of it.  I’m used to cranking up the speed much quicker because I had a shorter amount of time.  I felt so much slower at 6 steps.  Since I felt slower, I didn’t have the same confidence at take-off and it just didn’t feel right.  I was able to take off a few times in our first jumps practice over break, but the second one I just stayed on the ground and worked on rhythm.  I’m looking forward to pole vault practice this week to put it all together.

Hopefully I’ll have another update before the first meet, but if not–our first meet is April 7 at American International College!  Good luck to everyone who has already started their outdoor seasons & keep it up for those who are still training!

27

03 2012

The Spark Is Back.

Patriot Pole Vault Club questioned it’s club members on Valentine’s Day last week, “When did you first fall in love with pole vault?”

I was in the 8th grade.  I was a St. Bernard’s Elementary School student who found herself volunteering working at the concession stand at the outdoor District E Championships at Fitchburg High School’s Crocker Field.  The only exposure I had to track and field was beating my classmates in the 50 yard dash on Field Day and jumping over a few hurdles.  My older cousin Ashley Jollimore, one of Fitchburg’s top 100m dash runners at the time, was competing that day but I had been distracted from her event.  I was pulled to the dark depths of Crocker Field, next to the clubhouse under the shade of the trees, next to the rushing waters of the Nashua River.  Our flirtation had begun.  I had told my mother that if I was going to be on the track team in high school, I wanted to do that event.

My freshman year of high school, I told the coaches that I wanted to be a pole vaulter.  After the usual screening process of, “Pole vaulters are supposed to be the strongest and best athletes on the team,” or “It’s not as easy as it looks,” and “It’s going to take a lot of patience.”  It only made me want to prove myself that much more.  When I cleared 6 ft at practice in preparation for my first meet, that’s the day I became Fitchburg High School’s pole vaulter.

Thinking about it today, as a 4th semester senior at UMass Amherst and still a pole vaulter, that was almost 9 years ago. Pole vault and I have been together for almost 9 years this spring.

Like any long term relationship, over this past season the spark was starting to fade for me–or at least that’s what I hear happens sometimes.  Personally, I wouldn’t know.  It’s not that I didn’t love pole vault.  I still did, but the same ol’ same ol’ was getting boring.  Same heights.  Same jumps.  Same results–after years of learning together and growing together.  I was starting to think that maybe this was as good as it was going to get.

This past weekend at the A-10 Championships, pole vault proved me wrong.  With a “nothing left to lose” attitude, I was jumping like I had never done before.  I grabbed the 13′ 150, and just let whatever happened happen.  This wasn’t a time to criticize.  This wasn’t a time to think about too much.  It was time to jump.  After “5, 4, 3, 2, 1″ I didn’t think.  They weren’t the best jumps technique-wise, as usual, but with a clear mind and confidence the heights just kept coming.

I finished with a new personal best of 11’10” and ran out of poles for 12’2″.  Three solid attempts under my belt for the New Englands.  Based on misses, I had tied for 4th with URI’s Kaylan Pickford with the same height as 3rd place.  I had also bought myself another day to compete.  I’ll be headed to ECACs after New Englands.

What happened with pole vault and I? Well, I just needed to stop.  I needed to stop beating my head against a wall and trying to ‘fix’ and work on our relationship to make it perfect.  It will never be perfect, but it will be the best that I can make it.  And when it comes down to it.  It’s just about the love.  I love to pole vault.  I love to compete.  I have a lot of fun.  And that’s all that really matters.  Who can really argue with that?

It’s also interesting to see that now my relationship with pole vault is back on track, it rolls over to other aspects of university life.  I’m more motivated to finish my last semester of classes strong instead of breezing by.  I’m more focused.  I don’t feel as aimless or passionless.

It feels good to have the spark back.

20

02 2012