Apollo-Ridge pole vaulter thriving without expert guidance

As she watched a YouTube video of one world-class pole vaulter after another last season, Reannah Martin pieced together the tips and tricks she needed to become the best at the event in WPIAL Class AA.

Now, as the reigning WPIAL champ, Martin seeks more ways to expand her vaulting knowledge.

But her options are limited.

YouTube videos alone might not provide enough insight to help Martin, a junior, repeat and, ideally, fly ever higher in the sky. Apollo-Ridge lacks a vaulting coach, so Martin and other Vikings learn largely through trial and error and research they conduct on their own time. Other teams’ coaches and vaulters sometimes become adopted advisors for a few hours.

“It does stink sometimes knowing that I have to look to opponents at meets for help,” Martin said. “But I’m used to it now.

“YouTube is a huge thing. I have other vaulters take videos of me. Then I try to go through the video and look on YouTube and compare. I just take what they do, and I try to do it.”

The imitation approach allowed Martin to break Apollo-Ridge’s girls pole vault record (8 feet) and later win the WPIAL Class AA title as a sophomore by clearing 10 feet.

In just her second year as a vaulter, she became the most successful Viking since Chris Stewart placed first and second in WPIAL Class AA in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Apollo-Ridge coach Bob Desiderato, who specializes in middle-distance and throwing events, described Martin’s WPIAL title as a surprise and admitted he lacks the expertise to turn her into a pole vaulting phenom.

“It’s really a foreign concept to me,” he said of the event. “I can tell if an arm is extended or if someone’s timing is off — basically anything that someone who has been around pole vaulting a bit can notice. … We just try to train her to be faster and stronger.”

To go higher and better her chance of claiming more gold medals, Martin attended West Virginia’s pole vaulting camp last July. There, for the first time in her career, she found expert guidance. The experience allowed her to discuss advanced techniques such as how to carry the pole down the runway rather than push it down.

“I can carry, but I just choose to put it on the ground (while on the runway) for now,” Martin said. “By WPIALs, I should be carrying. It helps a lot to carry, because it helps you bend the pole better, and it makes your plant better.”

Martin returned to the track this spring bolder and ready to set a new best. She traded in her old pole, an 11-footer, for a more flexible 13-footer. Thoughts of clearing 11 feet, perhaps even 11 feet, 6 inches became less absurd.

Then came the rain, the wind and the cold weather of late March and early April. Such conditions made it too dangerous for Martin to even train outdoors, let alone go for unprecedented heights.

In her first meet, Martin cleared 9-6 with room to spare but failed to get over 10 feet.

The WPIAL championships are May 15. Martin hopes to have mastered at least one 10-foot vault by that date.

One person she might consult for a quick pointer or two is her brother, Kyler, a 2011 Apollo-Ridge grad.

“I only did (pole vaulting) because my brother did it, and it looked fun, so I tried it,” Reannah Martin said.

Kyler Martin, though never able to reach the WPIAL medal stand, became a proficient pole vaulter after learning the event as a junior. His career-best vault in a meet was 12-6.

Now in the Navy and stationed in Virginia, he rarely gets to see his sister in action. He also wonders if Reannah now is the vaulting expert in the family.

“I think she’s passed my abilities in that event,” said Kyler, who never attended a camp but did receive occasional instruction from Stewart. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I just thought it was fun to go flying through the air and land on the mat.”



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