After enjoying his time as a high jumper at Canandaigua, Sam Harding set his sights on an event that would allow him to leap even higher.
“I loved high jumping,” he said. “It was just a fun thing to do. I looked over at pole vaulting and it looked like a daring sport, it looked fun.”
Harding asked coach Matt Oberst to introduce him to the pole vault as a freshman, and he quickly found success. Now a senior, Harding crushed his previous indoor track school record by clearing 14 feet and 4 inches at the College at Brockport last weekend.
However, Harding wasn’t flying high right from the start. He said his freshman year learning process was trial and error.
“You’ve got to suck it up and really go for it,” the son of Greg and Lynn Harding said. “My freshman year I kept getting scared. I’d be running really fast and the closer I got to the pit, I’d slow down. With not enough momentum I’d go up on the pole and back down on the track.”
Eventually he did get over the hump — or in this case the bar. Harding set what was at the time a freshman pole vault record with a height of 9-6. As a sophomore, Harding and teammate Michael Ferguson broke the school record together. By the end of the indoor season they were both clearing 11-6.
Harding finished second to Victor’s Ben Maxwell at the Section 5 Class B championships last year. Both boys cleared 13 feet, but Maxwell did it in fewer total attempts, to take first. The Canandaigua star jumped 13-3 at the state qualifier to reach states where he finished 21st.
During last year’s outdoor season, Harding cleared 13-9 at the state qualifier, which was his personal best before last weekend. Harding believes his improved strength and form have helped him improve consistently.
“I had been waiting since this time last year for the 14-4,” he said. “I haven’t had the form for it. I know that I’ve been able to get my hips up that high, which is the key thing. Last year, at state quals I cleared a 14-foot bungee and I was all ready that day; I cleared it by six or eight inches. I was all ready to go 14-6, and since then it’s just been a battle every week. I knew I had the potential, I just had to wait for the bar to get there.”
Canandaigua coach Arlene DeVinney thinks Harding can break Keri Lee’s outdoor pole vaulting record of 14-2. The record has stood since at least the 1980s. She credited Harding’s success to his hard work and passion, recalling Harding practicing the high jump as a seventh and eighth grader before practice even started.
The senior is deciding between Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh for college next fall. He plans to study business administration and would like to pole vault for either school.
Harding has high goals for the rest of the season. He is currently ranked No. 1 in all of Section 5.
“I definitely plan on taking first at sectionals and I’m really hoping for first at state quals,” he said. “At states, I want to medal (top six). I want to clear 15-2 in outdoor; 15-1 is coach Auble’s record for a vaulter in high school.”