Mick Viken’s athletic career has been one big adrenaline rush.
But who can blame him? Jumping more than 17 feet into the air can do that to a person.
“Pole vaulting 17-plus feet is pretty exciting,” he said. “I get really fired up for the meets once I’m done jumping.”
Though Viken finds jumping exhilarating, it does take a toll on his body.
“It’s a fast crash,” he said. “I’m pretty exhausted after that.”
And then it’s over — until he does it again.
So far this season, he has already beaten the indoor school pole vaulting record with a 17.5 foot jump, but Viken thinks he can still do better.
Much of this drive came from his experience at Nationals, where he placed 12th. Viken said it only caused him to feel more of a push.
“It was the first track meet other than regionals where you’re surrounded by everybody good as you or better than you,” he said. “It’s the highest level of competition.”
Training in overdrive
Viken’s triumphs have not come without turbulence, especially during his freshman year at University of Wisconsin, the year before he transferred to Eastern. That year he had to have back surgery and not do any physical activity for five months. For Viken, this meant sitting out the whole season — while wanting to anything but.
“I was just laying back doing nothing, and it was driving me crazy,” he said.
Viken has more than made up for lost time since then, especially this past summer.
Viken said since June — the offseason time he would normally spend resting and gearing up for the next season — he pushed himself even harder. Being at Nationals was satisfying, but left him wanting more, giving him the momentum to keep going even when his body wanted a break.
“The school records aren’t as big a deal to me,” he said. “I figure with the training, that’ll come; but my biggest goal is to be better than everybody in the country, not just everybody that’s been here.”
Viken then spent his spare time during the summer and first semester lifting and running hills instead of relaxing like he could have done.
“I think that’s made the biggest difference, so that I feel like I’m picking up right where I let off,” he said. “There’s not a lot of building I have to do to get back to where i was at the end of last year.”
Viken’s time is consumed with pole vaulting year round, but he still makes his family his number one priority. In fact, they’re the reason he is in pole vaulting in the first place.
The youngest out of three boys and one girl, Viken has always looked up to his older siblings, especially his two pole vaulter brothers, who also competed at collegiate level at University of Iowa and Notre Dame University.
Like most boys, Viken said he would watch his older brothers practice their sport, idolizing them until he tried to give it a try himself.
“I started messing around with it in sixth grade, and I really fell in love with it and really progressed through high school,” he said.
Although Viken played football all four years at Rolling Meadows high school, as well as diving for a few years, pole vaulting continued to be his strength. So he ran with it — or rather, jumped.
Still trying to prove himself against his brothers, Viken said at the initial level he tried to beat the goals his brothers set at his high school.
After a while, though, Viken said beating his brothers’ – and competitors’ – accomplishments became less important; now he was more concerned about self motivation.
“My goals are more than beating somebody,” he said. “I want to beat myself every day and set new PR’s,” he said.
Final chapters and future
Viken will still have another year at Eastern, during which he hopes to work on his ultimate goal: competing professionally.
“If I can jump high enough, I’d like to compete professionally if I get to that point,” he said.
“Otherwise, my plan is to teach and coach pole vaulting for sure, or maybe football at the high school level.”
Either way, don’t expect Viken to leave the thing that gives him the biggest charge of emotions.
“I don’t ever see myself ever getting away from pole vaulting,” he said.