I remember walking over to my dad after a particularly bad track meet in high school, head down, angry, and looking up at him with a proud smile on his face. “I cannot believe how fast you looked on that runway!” Pole-vaulting is a mental and physical Rube Goldberg machine. Each phase is a crucial state initializer to the next, and worthless in isolation.
He followed me around to all my meets, rooting for me, encouraging me, even regularly making the 5 hour trek up to Ann Arbor when his body was starting to fail him when I was competing in college. As far as Big Ten pole-vaulters go I was pretty middle of the pack, firmly in the “Athletes Who Go Pro in Something Other Than Sports” category. Eventually though Dad got more sick, classes got harder, things more complicated. It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to start sprinting towards a metal hole in the ground holding the end of a 15 foot pole convincing yourself that this is going to end well. It was tough to keep the machine running as consistent as I wanted, so I had to turn it off.
2015 felt kind of like jumping 13 feet at Sectionals. Good speed, high plant, long trail leg, but I can’t really say it went like I’d hoped. I’m not sure I can summarize 2015 any better, which is probably why it’s mid-February and I’m just now trying. There were plenty of pieces to be proud of but I feel like I spun my wheels a bit.
I’m trying to look at this year like my dad would though. I see flaming out just after opening height, but I’m trying to look for the parts that made it meaningful. Here are some highlights: