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!!