Tedi DeMaria sets sights on another New York state championship
Bethlehem High’s Tedi DeMaria is right on course to continue her domination in girls’ pole vaulting.
The Eagles’ senior is the defending New York state and Federation outdoor champion, and she’s the favorite to add the indoor title to her resume.
Success came quickly for DeMaria, who has been competing in the pole vault for just 16 months.
She is currently ranked sixth in the nation among high school vaulters.
“I was involved in gymnastics for 12 years, since I was a little girl,” DeMaria said. “Gymnastics is a huge commitment, about six days of practice every week, and after I had some injuries, I decided to give it up and try pole vault.”
Pole vault was not totally foreign to DeMaria.
Her father, Joe, who was a pole vaulter at SUNY Plattsburgh in the mid-1970s.
Joe DeMaria still holds the Cardinals’ record at 15 feet, 1 inch. Father and daughter also recorded a rare double: Both posted pole-vault wins at the prestigious William F. Eddy Meet in Schenectady.
“Dad had poles out in the garage, and I was always interested in maybe vaulting some day,” DeMaria said. “Pole vault is a lot like gymnastics, and the toughest thing has been breaking some of my old habits from being a gymnast. Since I started, Dad gives me pointers, and I listen.”
After DeMaria joined the Delmar Track Club, one of the team coaches told her about Tim St. Lawrence and his Hudson Valley Flying Circus, a training ground for successful vaulters.
The one rub was that the “barn” that houses the Flying Circus is located in Warwick (Orange County), more than a two-hour drive from the Capital Region.
“It’s real pole vaulting and so worth the trip,” DeMaria said. “We go down twice a week, every Thursday and Sunday, and I spend about two hours working out there.”
St. Lawrence said his protege’s competitive spirit is what sets her apart.
“Tedi is so powerful, so fast, but extremely humble,” he said. “She’s an absolute joy to coach. We have about 109 kids working out at the barn, and she’s one of the ones with so much potential.”
At Bethlehem the rest of the week, DeMaria works on speed and strength training, her steps and practicing the triple jump.
Her initial foray into track and field came last winter.
“We threw her into pretty much every field event — triple jump, high jump, long jump, pentathlon and even hurdles and the 4×4 relay,” coach Ashley Gansle said. “In her first meet, she went 10 feet and wasn’t satisfied. She wanted more, and that’s what makes her great. She is always raising the bar.”
That hunger led to the gold-medal-performance at last year’s state outdoor championships, held at the University at Albany. Her winning height was 12-3.
“It was great to watch as the bar went higher,” Gansle said. “We started at 10, went to 10-6, then 11, 11-3 and 11-6 before she cleared at 12-3. Tedi, of course, wanted more.”
DeMaria can claim her first indoor crown at the state championships March 5 at Cornell.
With a personal best of 12-8, she’s out to better 13 feet.
Sunday at the University at Albany, DeMaria earned Suburban Council titles in the pole vault and triple jump to help the Eagles finish third in the team standings behind Shenendehowa and Saratoga.
Division I colleges have taken notice, and DeMaria said she has her list whittled down to three.
“Louisville, Virginia and George Mason are my top ones,” she said. “I’m planning to make a decision in April, but all three are great schools.”
Gansle said college coaches are likely most interested in just how high DeMaria can go with such a small sample size.
“I’m sure a lot are waiting to see where it takes her,” Gansle said. “There are other girls that have been vaulting for four or five years, and she’s reached 12-8 in just over a year. They’ve got to be excited to have her as part of the team.”
DeMaria said she uses every drill available to improve her vaulting.
“Because of gymnastics, I have good air sense and motion, but I am working hard on improving my form,” she said. “My speed is good, my strength is good, and I also have to keep working on the mental part.”
Her work ethic sets an example for others, her coaches say.
“She is a silent leader, leading by example,” said Eagles coach Tom Howley. “She’s inspired other girls, younger girls, to compete in the pole vault. She doesn’t realize how much she does for others.”