Austin Vegas isn’t a high roller, but he certainly is a high flyer.

“It’s amazing to watch him go up, and I’m like, ‘Whoa, hang on on the way down,’ ” James Studevent, East Forsyth’s track-and-field coach, said of watching Vegas in the pole vault. “It’s a daredevil type sport. There’s a little extra anxiety when you watch it.”

Vegas, who has signed with William & Mary, has won the past two NCHSAA 4-A indoor championships and was a potential winner of the 2011 outdoor title if not for what he called “the worst performance of pretty much the whole season.”

Today, he’ll be aiming for the clouds when he vaults at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, with his event scheduled to start at 10 a.m. He’s hoping the high level of competition will bring out a performance he has been poised to have for nearly a year.

Vegas has a personal best of 15 feet, 7 inches this spring — a height that leads the state. But he essentially has been stuck near that height since last spring.

“It’s extremely frustrating to be honest,” Vegas said Tuesday. “I cleared 15 my sophomore year, and since then I haven’t gotten much of anywhere. I have been doing a lot better the last two weeks. I have had a shot at 16 feet the last five weeks, and sooner or later it’s going to click, and I am going to be happy.

“I have gotten stronger and faster, and honestly, I have been watching YouTube videos trying to figure out what I am doing wrong. My coaching has been great, but I think I figured out two things to help me out.”

Competing in the discus, high jump and long jump haven’t taken too much time away from his vaulting practice, but instead, have helped increase his speed and strength, Vegas said.

He is concentrating on his inversion — the part of the vault when he’s on the way up — and getting his feet and hips over his head. He has watched countless videos of some of the world’s best vaulters.

“I want to make that inversion faster so all that energy is above the pole,” Vegas said. “I have come so close in the last few weeks. At 16, (the bar) just rolls off. Everyone thinks I make it, then it rolls off.”

Studevent likened Vegas’ plateau to a 100-meter runner who gets to the point that lowering times by even one-tenth of a second takes maximum effort.

“When you get to a certain point, it’s almost like you have maxed out,” Studevent said. “He’s around 15-6, and no one can knock him off that totem pole, but it takes a lot of time and effort and training.

“He knows that it takes time and patience. Anything you do well it takes patience. To get to the height he has gotten to and consistently stay there takes a lot. Fifteen feet is tremendous. He will go higher, it just takes time.”

Vegas cleared 15-1 and finished fifth at the Penn Relays in 2011. Although he admitted that he wants to win today, he said he would be happier to finally clear 16 feet.

The same goes for next month’s NCHSAA championships. Winning would be nice, but Vegas has making his target height as his real goal.

“If I lose at states and get 16 feet, I will be happy,” Vegas said. “The state championship is just a title; the colleges look at the height, not the rings.

“I have two state rings. I can’t wear more than one, so I would rather (have) the height. That matters more.”

By By: Mason Linker

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