Carson City’s Arnold has chance to make Olympic team

One day Mike Arnold may send a thank-you note to the Carson High baseball program.

Arnold, who was a youth baseball player in his early years, was cut from the JV baseball team when he was a freshman. Little did he know the Senators did him a huge favor.

“I ran track in seventh and eighth grade,” Arnold said. “My freshman year I didn’t make the baseball team. I ran track and started to pole vault. I fell in love with it. I never looked back.”

It was easily the best decision he’s made in his life, and not many kids can make that claim at such an early age.

Arnold, who holds the Carson High pole vault record at 16-1, attended Idaho State and went onto win six Big Sky championships. Now, he’s just days away from qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

The former CHS and ISU star has met the Olympic qualifying mark of 18-6 ½, and now he just needs to finish in the top 12 to advance out of the prelims and finish in the top three at this week’s trials at historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon to realize his dream.

“I’m excited, but at the same time I’m nervous,” Arnold said in a recent telephone interview. “There is a lot of work still to be done.

“Making the World Championship (Indoor) team helped. I was excited for that. It calmed the nerves. It was the first time I’d qualified for that international event.”

Arnold, who was eighth at the world indoor meet in Portland, Oregon, admits he has his hands full. Eighteen vaulters have reached the Olympic qualifying mark. At 18-11, Arnold has the second-best mark behind Ole Miss star Sam Kendricks, who has cleared 19-5.

Also in the mix are Jake Blankenship (18-9 ¼), Logan Cunningham and Mark Hollis (18-8 ¾), Scott Houston, Devin King and Joey Uhle have all cleared 18-8 ¼.

“It’s a good field,” Arnold said. “There are several guys that could get into the top three. Sam has been great the last couple of years. You just can’t rule anybody out. It comes down to who jumps well on a given day. I think there are eight or nine that could qualify.

“I have put myself in a good position. There isn’t anything guaranteed. I have to show up (and jump well). It’s not going to be easy to make that team. I think about what it will take. I think it will have to be around 18-8 1/4. My goal is to make every height on my first attempt.”

And, he’s glad to be jumping at historic Hayward Field.

“I love going up there,” Arnold said. “It’s a great place, a great environment. The fans are real supportive. I think it’s the best place in the country to have this meet.”

Besides an Olympic berth, the biggest thing missing from Arnold’s resume is the ever-elusive 19-foot jump. The 18-11 clearing came in Flagstaff, Ariz., and he’s cleared that height just once in competition.

“My technique is sound,” Arnold said. “I’ve been jumping well. I don’t think I have to add anything. I’ve put in a lot of work in the last 11 years.”

Dave Nielsen, his Idaho State coach, agreed.

“He’s been right there,” said Nielsen. “He’s been having some great practices. He has the tools to be an Olympian. Sure it’s all technique (for that extra height). Getting good position; getting hands up high.”

Arnold’s success in the sport has come because of hard work. He has taken great care of himself through diet and exercise since entering college. Besides the normal vaulting, he sprints, does weights, and push-ups and crunches. His diet includes plenty of vegetables and fish.

Another thing about Arnold is he’s resilient. He has had some big disappointments in his career, namely missing the NCAA Championships his senior year at Idaho State and coming up short in 2013 of qualifying for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

One learns from failures much more than success, and Arnold has bounced back from every failure to have success. With his talent and drive, he’s a viable competitor to earn one of those three berths.


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