Fear is the brain’s ability to recognize danger, like the kind inherent in launching one’s self 10 feet into the air.
Setting that emotion aside is necessary for a pole vaulter to be successful. For Shelbyville High School pole vaulting coach Steve Nuthak, finding a competitor with the right mental acuity is just as important as finding one with the right kind of athletic ability.
Erin Diemer’s stubbornness and fear were all wrapped up inside her head Thursday when Nuthak insisted she make her final attempt on a longer and heavier pole. The Shelbyville Middle School eighth-grader reached her limit earlier in the week on her current pole when she cleared 10 feet in Greensburg to break her own event record.
To go higher, Diemer must get comfortable on a pole designed for bigger, stronger athletes. Nuthak, who has guided several Shelbyville athletes to the State Finals, believes she is ready to make the jump.
“Each goal that she has surpassed means we’ve tried to raise that bar and find another one,” said Nuthak.
Diemer cleared 9-6 on a comfortable afternoon Thursday at McKeand Stadium. She missed at 10 feet which left her with one attempt left. Nuthak insisted Diemer switch poles to one six inches longer and five pounds heavier. She reluctantly agreed.
Diemer kicked the bar near the top of her vault and landed on the black and gold mat with a thud… clearly frustrated at the effort.
“I haven’t had a lot of practice with it so I was really nervous,” said Diemer. “It scared me a little bit.”
Diemer will overcome that fear too, just as she has since she was first plucked from hurdling practice by Nuthak, who didn’t realize she was the younger sister of current Shelbyville high school athlete Mikayla Diemer.
The first few days of pole vaulting are the most treacherous as an athlete learns the proper technique and conquers their fear of being launched through the air.
“In the first few weeks, almost nobody is good at this,” said Nuthak. “(Erin) had the ability the first couple weeks through the hardships of your body wondering if it is capable of doing it. That’s pretty tough. You have to be pretty stubborn to keep coming back.”
Success helps too. Diemer’s clearance of 10 feet was good enough to win last year’s Shelbyville Sectional — for high school athletes. And 10-6 advanced out of the regional.
“Hopefully, I can beat the high school record,” said Diemer, who is chasing the mark of 10-3 set by Angela Metz. “(10-6) is really my goal.”
She missed at 10-6 at the same Greensburg meet where she set the middle school record. The final results had her a foot higher than any of the boys competing. And that’s cool.
“Very much so,” said Diemer with a big grin.
She will continue to train throughout the summer. And when the weather is less than desirable, she can move into Shelbyville High School’s auxiliary gymnasium and practice indoors.
Diemer has just scratched the surface of her potential, according to Nuthak, who keeps looking for a reason to retire from coaching.
“This really is exciting,” said Nuthak. “Every couple of years I think it’s a good time to ride off into the sunset and then I’ll have another group of kids that I fall in love with and push me another couple of years.”
At least four more years if Diemer has anything to say about it.