With so many different events going on during track and field meets, the intricacies involved in each often can get lost.
Runners have to perfect their reaction time off the blocks, jumpers must time their runs perfectly, and throwers have to ensure their footwork is pristine so as not to foul on a throw.
As they attempt to fly over the bar that often sits higher than 10 feet in the air, pole vaulters also know the importance of technique, from the run to the proper positioning in the air.
Although she’s only been doing the sport for three years, senior Sarah Coleman, the top pole vaulter on Amherst County High School’s track and field team, often finishes ahead of the rest of the pack during meets with her technical proficiency.
Lance Carter, Sarah Coleman’s coach, said his first experience with Coleman came when she was a freshman. At the time, Coleman was on a competition cheer team, and Carter thought with her tumbling experience, she would be a good addition to the track and field team as a pole vaulter.
He asked her to take a few passes at vaulting the bar, and it didn’t take much convincing from there to get her to join the team.
“We tried a few times in the spring, and after I saw her jump a few times, I knew she could be a great athlete,” Carter said.
And it only took a few tries for Coleman to realize she enjoyed the sport, too.
“From that point on,” she said, “I loved it.”
She said she particularly enjoys the sport because it provides daring demands and requires skills not found in other sports.
“I like pole vaulting because it’s challenging and dangerous,” Coleman said. “I would recommend to [other students] to try pole vaulting because it’s a very fun sport.”
Some of those skills come from her tumbling background, and with her experience playing softball in the past during the spring, she also knows the value of hard work.
During her first season as a pole vaulter, Coleman took second place at the state indoor meet and took home the state outdoor title. Last year, Coleman finished in the top three in both indoor and outdoor state meets and qualified for outdoor nationals.
Carter said Coleman also is “in the hunt” to win both the indoor and outdoor state titles this year, and she’s already qualified for indoor nationals, which will take place March 10 in New York. Coleman cleared 11-6 this past weekend to make the cut.
“She’s been the best vaulter I have coached in a long time,” Carter said. “She’s gone higher than any other girl vaulter I have coached in 22 years of coaching.”
Additionally, as a senior, Coleman is able to be a sort of mentor to younger pole vaulters, she said. She’s able to help them hone their skills and learn the technique each day in practice.
Aside from the unique skills she’s acquired to be able to succeed as a pole vaulter, Coleman’s drive to constantly improve — along with the eight or nine hours she puts into practices each week — helps her to thrive each meet.
“If my heart is in something,” Coleman said, “I will never give up to achieve my goals, and nothing would get in my way.”
While she’s not yet sure how pole vaulting will figure into her post-high school plans, she does have a clear idea of what she hopes to pursue outside the track and field complex.
Her internship experience this year at Amherst Elementary School, where she helps teach kindergarten, has helped her realize she wants to pursue a degree in elementary education, and she wants to major in special education.