City trumps any college with national qualifiers

FAYETTEVILLE — Cabot High School will have a stronger presence in the women’s pole vault at this year’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships than Duke University or the University of Texas.

The Blue Devils and Longhorns each have two vaulters among the 24 competing Thursday night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Not bad, but not as good as Cabot.

Arkansas freshman twin sisters Lexi and Tori Weeks and fifth-year senior Ariel Voskamp — all from Cabot — advanced from the NCAA West Regional to earn spots in the pole vault at nationals.

“Yeah, the little town of Cabot has more pole vaulters at the national championships than any university out there,” said Bryan Compton, Arkansas’ field events coach. “Three girls from the same town on the same team in the same event.

“That’s pretty much unheard of. It’s not like they’re from Dallas.”

Lexi Weeks said that when they all advanced from the regional meet, it hit them Cabot would have three vaulters at the NCAA Championships.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Weeks said. “But it’s pretty cool, too.”

What would be cooler from the No. 1-ranked Razorbacks’ perspective is if all three vaulters could finish in the top eight and score points toward the team title.

It doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Lexi Weeks became the first freshman to win an NCAA indoor pole vault title and leads the nation outdoors at 15-2 3/4.

Tori Weeks finished sixth at the NCAA indoor meet and ranks eighth outdoors at 14-5 1/4.

Voskamp ranks 21st outdoors at 13-9 1/4, but she has finished fifth and seventh the previous two years at the NCAA outdoors.

“All three of us in the top eight is our goal for sure,” Voskamp said. “We want to score as many points as we can because we’re trying to win a national title.

“Having three girls in the pole vault’s a big deal. So we all need to score.”

Lexi Weeks has been consistently brilliant as a freshman, clearing more than 15 feet five times this outdoor season. Her lowest mark was 14-1 at the Texas Relays.

“Lexi’s done a lot better than I anticipated coming in,” Compton said. “We’ve never had a freshman go 15 feet. Nobody has.

“We call her the freshman national record-holder. There haven’t been that many 15-foot vaulters anyway.”

Tori Weeks has set personal bests indoors and outdoors this year. She’d be the No. 1-ranked freshman vaulter in the nation if not for her sister.

“I guess it’s kind of different,” Tori Weeks said “Lexi has always been a couple of inches ahead of me, and obviously she’s been amazing.

“I hope I live up to that next year.”

Compton said the Weeks sisters have done an impressive job dealing with the pressure of high expectations.

“Every challenge that’s come up they’ve handled it really, really well,” Compton said. “They’ve shown that with the way they’ve done at the SEC and NCAA meets and getting through regionals.”

Compton said Voskamp deserves credit for the Weeks’ success, too.

“She’s helped them out with a lot of the things we do,” Compton said. “She’s kind of like our pole vault captain.”

The twins didn’t get to know Voskamp well until this year. They were eighth-graders when she was a high school senior.

“Once we got here, Ariel took us under her wing and helped us with the transition from college to high school,” Lexi Weeks said. “She showed us everything to do.

“She’s there to tell us, ‘This is how it’s done,’ and help us through that process.”

Voskamp said they are good listeners and eager to learn.

“They accomplished so much in high school, and they went to a few big meets, but in college everyone’s pretty good,” Voskamp said. “It’s a little bit different mindset.

“I’ve just tried to teach them what to expect when we go into meets, especially with traveling. Helping them figure out how to get poles from here to there, because it’s harder when you’re in college flying everywhere instead of just driving to the next town.

“They work pretty hard, so it’s been easy for me to help them out. They’ve been willing to do anything I’ve said basically.”

Both sisters said they’ve also benefited from training with former Razorback Sandi Morris, the NCAA indoor champion as a senior last year who in her first season as a professional has won the USA title and finished second at the World Championships.

“It’s insane to be jumping every day with somebody so talented,” Lexi Weeks said. “Whenever Sandi jumps, I’m always watching her to see what she’s doing right so I know what I need to do.

“She’s always there to give us encouragement and pointers. She’s someone you really can look up to.”

Tori Weeks said there wasn’t much doubt she and her sister would go to Arkansas together. There was no doubt they’d attend the same college.

“Nobody could separate us,” Tori Weeks said. “We visited Oklahoma and went to Yale just kind of for fun, but we pretty much knew we were coming here.

“It’s close to home, and Arkansas has the best pole vault coach in the country and best people to train with. We really couldn’t pick a better place.”

Voskamp said she expected the Weeks to do well at Arkansas, but not reach the heights they have so quickly.

“It’s been mind-blowing honestly,” Voskamp said. “To come in and really compete with the best — be a national champion and be an All-American your first season — that’s just incredible.”

Tori Weeks said there’s never been a hint of jealously from Voskamp.

“She’s always there for us,” she said. “We respect her so much. She’s been a great leader for us.”

From: http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2016/jun/03/cabot-vaults-onto-map-20160603/

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