Tyler Porter’s seventh-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., capped what the sophomore from Jefferson, Ga. called, “the greatest season of my life.”
The UT pole vaulter’s psyche had taken a huge hit in September when he was diagnosed with two bilateral hernias.
“I ended up having those patched around September sometime and I went and had surgery,” Porter said. From September until December, “they wouldn’t let me practice jumping.” The UT sophomore did rehab and “was sitting there mad at myself for getting hurt.”
Porter nearly redshirted his sophomore year until he launched with soaring colors at the Virginia Tech Invitational.
“I was planning redshirting for the indoor season and the first meet the guys went to I traveled by myself to compete unattached and I ended up jumping close to my PR from a short approach which is pretty big,” Porter said. “My coach was really happy with the way I was jumping so we decided not to redshirt and start competing for the team.”
Despite Porter’s rejuvenating 16-9 score in Blacksburg, Va., the recuperating pole vaulter “wasn’t actually ready” until he reached outdoors and realized it at the SEC Indoors in March after finishing ninth with a 16-6. Porter failed to score at the conference championship meet, but the setback pushed him towards an outdoor season launch.
“I really got down on myself and I think that really made me re-evaluate what I was doing wrong on my vault and it really helped me improve my outdoor,” Porter said. “I think it was good that I had a down indoors because it actually paid off in the outdoor making me jump higher.”
Not only did the UT pole vaulter jump higher but he personally saved his best for the 2013 outdoor season, but Porter never touched 16 feet after the Mississippi State Conference Challenge.
“It’s been the greatest season of my life,” the 2013 All-American honoree said. “I came in to the outdoor season only jumping 17-1 and then I ended up jumping 17-5 like six times or something like that. It’s just been really great because both my teammates Chase Brannon and Jake Blankenship were both All-Americans in the past two seasons and I always kind of felt like I was beneath them during the season.”
One of UT’s three NCAA qualifiers didn’t feel beneath his two teammates after he was done with nationals in Eugene, Ore. In three tries, Porter jumped to 17-8.5 feet, a personal record and five and a half inches better than his NCAA East Preliminary score (17-2.75). He nearly reached 18 and a second personal best on his next four attempts.
“On my third attempt,” the top-10 finisher said. “I climbed the pole, swung and the pole broke. It shattered into four different pieces. The crowd was freaking out. What happens is when you break your pole on one of your attempts, you get a re-jump, you get an equipment malfunction so I went up to the next pole, which was a bigger pole. I was really unfamiliar with it and my confidence wasn’t as high as it needed to be on that pole. I just kind of missed the timing on my fourth attempt so I definitely think it’s there, it just didn’t happen that day.”
Porter’s flight from where he was back in September to May was even harder, making his seventh-place 17-8.5 score even better.
His top 10 finish put him ahead of Blankenship (14th) and Brannon (15th) in the final standings and placed him on the men’s USTFCCCA First Team; it’s Porter’s first All-American honor.
“It’s like I’m on the same level as them,” the UT sophomore said. “It’s a really great feeling to be able to keep pushing each other to make each other better.”