OWEN SOUND – The pole vault is the loneliest championship in the Bluewater Athletic Association.
There are no cheering crowds. There’s no public address announcer calling out your name.
And in fact, there are only two competitors in the BAA.
But OSCVI’s Ben Eppel and Doug Miller aren’t in the sport for any of these things. Instead the two 19 year old Grade 12 students just want to fly.
“The idea of flying through the air is pretty cool and it’s awesome jumping two or three metres in the air,” Miller said on Wednesday after besting Eppel to win the BAA pole vault championship.
“With pole vault you’re either in the mode or you’re not. If you need a big crowd it’s probably not the best sport for you. Then again, a lot of people don’t need a big crowd, they just like the attention.”
Both vaulters cleared the bar at 2.30 m on their first attempt on Wednesday. However Miller was the first to clear 2.20 m prior to going for the higher height so he was awarded the gold medal while Eppel gets the silver.
The two qualified for the 2013 CWOSSA championships which are set for May 22 and 23 at Cambridge’s Jacob Hespeler.
The remainder of the BAA track and field championships are set for May 17 at Kincardine’s Davidson Centre.
Both Falcons thought pole vaulting looked like fun when they first saw it.
Miller watched other competitors doing it at OSCVI while Eppel’s brother Josh helped get the sport started up again at the school.
“I watched him do it a few times and it looked really cool and I thought it would be fun if I could actually do it,” said Eppel.
“It’s very challenging but once you actually do a jump, it’s very rewarding. The feeling that you get when you actually make a jump is like … `YESSSS’.”
And unlike most sports where athletes just work on their strength and speed, pole vaulters put themselves in some very un-natural positions to get ready for competitions.
“It’s hard to force yourself to do the techinque properly because you end up being upside down holding onto a pole that may or may not be right underneath you,” said Miller.
“You could go in any one of a 360 degree direction.”
Wednesday’s championship was also the duo’s first practice session of this year.
They’d been hung up over the winter because of the on-going dispute between Ontario and it’s secondary school teachers federation which saw the cancelation of all extracurricular activities.
A truce was called recently by the federation in time for spring sports but that didn’t make up for the lost training time over the winter.
“We train in the gym all winter, trying to get our technique right through repetition,” said Miller.
The two vaulters also found themselves without a coach as OSCVI teacher Don Bartley had a shoulder injury to sort out.
He’s now on the mend and he was on hand as the duo hit the track on Wednesday.
“I know they were disappointed this year with the extracurricular not happening but they’ve been very dedicated,” Bartley said.
“You can see their frustration (on Wednesday) because they know that they’re better than this. I’ll get out with them as many times as we can before they go off to CWOSSA.”
Bartley said pole vaulting has fallen on hard times in the BAA for several reasons.
“Pole vault has lost some notoriety in our area because a lot of schools don’t have proper facilities and the coaches haven’t been instructed on how to teach the kids safely,” said Bartley noting that the sport is also difficult for the athletes.
“You have to put in incredible amounts of time to get your body ready to compete. You need incredible upper body strength and you have to be like a gymnast with no fear.”
Losing the BAA title to Miller isn’t new to Eppel who also lost it last year but went on to best his friend at CWOSSA.
Eppel finished fourth at CWOSSA last year after jumping 2.70 m. That qualified him for the OFSAA west region championships in Windsor but he was not able to attend for scheduling reasons. Miller cleared 2.50 m at CWOSSA.
“I just have this insane luck at CWOSSA,” Eppel said.
“I think we do well under pressure. There’s a lot more people at CWOSSA and they’re watching it because it’s cool. So they watch it and it seems easier (for us). And there are pretty girls at CWOSSA. That helps too.”

From: http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2013/05/08/lonely-falcons-flying-to-pole-vault-heights

Eppel Vaulter Magazine
Eppel Vaulter Magazine

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