LA CROSSE – Just because Matt Schneider and Riley Budde had been to the WIAA State Track and Field Meet in La Crosse before didn’t absolve them from staring down fear Saturday.

For Budde, it was a daunting rerun of last year’s Division 1 discus competition, with a start of showers thrown in. In Schneider’s case, his pole snapped on his final attempt at 14 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault.

Both Beaver Dam seniors turned in better individual performances than the ones that enabled them to take fourth place in their respective events. Given the circumstances, they both saw their ample athletic ability neutralized in a mental battle of will versus skill.

There’s all sorts of opportunity for injury in the pole vault if the pole doesn’t break. Schneider was literally and figuratively in the pit, thinking his chances had gone to pieces just like his method of transportation.

“It’s the first time it’s happened to me,” Schneider said. “That sucked. It got me in the elbow and the face. I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Schneider didn’t realize that a broken pole doesn’t count as an attempt. So he had one final chance to keep going.

Some people respond to car crashes differently. Some get squeamish about anything car-related, others get a rush of euphoria having survived the near miss.

If you pole vault, you’ve already crossed the line of risk. Schneider wisely focused his thoughts on his final attempt.

“I felt like I had to get stuff done,” Schneider said. “It’s really hard to come back from a break and go to a bigger pole.”

But Schneider has a rare ability to adjust his approaches to the different poles he uses.

Jolted before his attempt, he was visibly juiced after it as he cleared the bar, an effort with no shortage of nerve.

“I was kind of pumped up,” Schneider said. “Coming back from that really felt good.”

Schneider could go no further and settled for fourth. The whole episode proved to be draining.

“I ran out of energy,” Schneider said. “All my adrenaline left.”

Schneider’s tank hit empty. But first he ensured that his departure from Memorial Stadium would not be empty-handed.

Budde had a forgettable day of scratching out and not reaching the finals as a junior. Not only did he scuffle on his first two tries but precipitation started during his flight.

“The rain didn’t really help,” Budde said. “It wasn’t really that bad. It was the same type of stuff at regionals and sectionals.”

One of the quickest ways to cut an imposing thrower like Budde down to size is to soak his footing. The circle had to be dried, but between the remnants of that and uncertainty of the grip on the discus heaped pressure on to Budde’s final throw.

Top-seeded Sam Elsner of Portage was bothered enough by the elements that he didn’t reach the finals. Budde came up with the best throw of his flight by clearing 155 feet to get the job done and stay alive for the finals.

“It seems like I always leave it to the last throw,” Budde said.

He pulled off a similar feat the night before while taking third in the shot put. Just as it went down in the shot put, Budde threw better in the finals (165-0) only to be trumped by Waukesha West’s Dylan Chmura (171-11), who won the event.

Budde threw 189-0 earlier this year but his goal was much simpler – trash the memory of last year’s mishaps.

“It got a lot better than last year,” Budde said. “I just wanted to get to the podium.

“I hoped it wouldn’t be like last year. I had to clear my head.”

So Budde reached the podium for the second time in as many days. As he did, fear was nowhere to be found.

Podium hijinx

Schneider and his pole vaulting cohorts ended their competition but they weren’t finished Saturday. Not ones to be bored with a traditional stand on the podium, they added their own flair to the proceedings.

First, they all hopped on their podium spots standing-broad-jump style. Then they did backflips off the podium except for state champion Jake Wallenfang of Green Bay Preble, who set a new state record at 16 feet.

Wallenfang did indulge in a ‘trust fall’ for his podium departure. As he fell backwards off the podium, the other placewinners caught him.

“We’re pole vaulters and we tend to be silly,” Schneider said. “We had it all choreographed.”

This is what happens when pole vaulters are made to sit and wait for 40 minutes to get on a podium.

Notes: Beaver Dam’s girls 3,200 meter relay team of Maria Martinez-Ponce, Morgan Meier, Brenna Calder and Breighana Schweitzer took 11th in a time of 9:41.89. The quartet started strong and faded late, but the good news is there are no seniors on the squad.


Schneider Vaulter Magazine
Schneider Vaulter Magazine

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