MADISON – There’s a reason why Eskimos don’t make great pole vaulters.
Besides the fact that they’ve probably never tried it, freezing cold conditions are not conducive for reaching great heights.
“It’s not easy practicing in the winter,” Madison High School junior Abe Gertler acknowledged. “It’s tough getting out on the runway when it’s 30 degrees. You’ve got to hold onto the pole, and it’s falling out of your hands.”
Despite a limited amount of difficult practice, Gertler is having a superb winter season in the event. After recording a personal-best mark of 12 feet in December, he’s cleared 12 feet, 6 inches on two different occasions.
On Sunday, Jan. 13, Gertler matched his top height and posted the best individual mark at the NJSIAA Group 1 Relays. Senior Austin Tolbert recorded the meet’s third-best vault at 11-6 and the two combined to win the gold medals with a combined height of 24 feet.
“A lot of people don’t think track is a team sport,” Gertler said. “But in the winter, about half these meets are relays.
“You can be a very good pole vaulter, but if you don’t have a good partner, you can’t medal or help the team.”
At the Group 1 Relays, Gertler missed on his first two attempts at 12-6, but adjusted the depth of the bar each time. On his third attempt, he had it positioned just right and “hit the sweet spot”
“I did touch the bar coming down, but I didn’t hit it hard,” Gertler said. “When I finally hit the mat, I saw it was still on and jumped up. Everyone was excited and came over to congratulate me.”
One of the first to arrive was Dodger assistant coach David DeRosa, who’s played a huge role in the success of all the team’s vaulters.
Gertler, who started in track and field just last year, said DeRosa is always out there pole vaulting with his athletes because “he wants to show that he’s not just punishing us.”
Looking ahead, Gertler hopes to clear 13 feet before the end of the winter season. He won’t do it at either the Group 1 Championships or Meet of Champions, though, since he’ll be away on vacation.
“I have high hopes for this year,” Gertler said. “I’m starting to get all the peripheral things straightened out. I feel like I have some pretty good jumps ahead of me.
“If it doesn’t happen in the winter, there’s always spring.”