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Former prep champ vaults back home

When NASA prepares a launch, everything needs to be perfect. The pole vault is pretty much the same.

The step pattern, the placement of the pole and the strength and speed of the pole vaulter all need to be just right.

San Diego State senior Kortney Ross knows all about it. As a junior and senior at Westview High, she won back-to-back state championships in the pole vault and still holds the San Diego Section record at 13 feet, 6 inches.

Her coach at the time suggested looking at the University of Oregon.

“I knew I wanted to go there. It’s Track Town, USA. How could you not want to go there?” said Ross, a sociology major.

After first committing to UCLA, she happily changed her mind when the Ducks offered a full scholarship. Oregon’s campus, the people, the location and the Ducks’ track tradition immediately had her sold.

Ross was at the top of her game when she arrived in Eugene.

The next three years, however, would be difficult. She pulled her hamstring as a freshman but made it back for the Pac-10 Championships, placing third (13-41/2). The next season, she suffered a stress fracture in her fibula just before winter break. She pulled her hamstring again in the first meet her junior year.

“I loved the school, I loved my roommate, I loved everything about it except that I ended up hating track being up there,” Ross said. “I hated it — didn’t want to go to practice because pole vault wasn’t working and that was the whole reason why I was up there.”

Ross decided she wanted to return home, specifically to San Diego State. So she called SDSU pole vault coach Rich Fox. He then contacted his friend, Mark Vanderville, a firefighter for the Eugene/Springfield Fire Department who runs a pole vault club in Oregon called Raising the Bar.

When the 6-foot Ross started training at the club, she lacked confidence, but Vanderville had a plan to help Ross get past the mental hurdles, starting with technique.

“If you’ve learned the proper way to hit your positions in the vault, there’s a good chance you may not have confidence issues,” Vanderville said. “But if people haven’t learned a technically sound way, when things don’t go right it shows up because they don’t have a technique to fall back on.”

Ross spent a couple months training at Raising the Bar before transferring to SDSU.

“After she returned, she was looking for stability, a level of comfort, being home, but still having that competitive drive to be successful and compete at the highest level,” Fox said.

Ross’ confidence appears to be growing every day, just in time for this week’s Aztec Invitational. Ideally, her performance will peak in May when San Diego State hosts the Mountain West Outdoor Championships.

When she’s not preparing to clear the bar, Ross is a smiling, funny beach-goer. When she steps on the track, she’s driven by competition.

Ross’ biggest rivals this year have been her fellow SDSU pole vaulters, regarded by Fox as one of the most talented groups in the program’s history. At the Mountain West Indoor Championships in February, Ross finished second (13-03/4) behind teammate Bonnie Draxler (13-81/2) and one spot ahead of another Aztec Karen Snapper (12-83/4).

Ross said the reason for her success now is because she’s thinking the same way she used to.

“What really made me successful in high school was I didn’t know what to be scared of,” she said.

From: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/25/kortney-ross-pole-vaulter-sdsu-westview/

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