LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska native Jeremy Scott is getting ready to compete for an Olympic medal in the pole vault this week.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/NuzHZf ) that Scott, who grew up in Norfolk, Neb., believes he has a shot at a medal in the competition that starts Wednesday.
Scott didn’t even start pole vaulting until he was 16.
The 31-year-old has spent nine years training with Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, Ark. That means he already knows several teammates because one of the other male pole vaulters and two women who are competing in the event also train there.
“Earl Bell has had at least one guy training with him on the Olympic team since he started coaching,” Scott said.
Besides Scott, Derek Miles is another Bell pole vaulter who will compete for the United States. Becky Holliday, who earned a spot in Monday’s final by clearing 4.55 meters, also trains with Bell and is part of the U.S. team. Israeli athlete Jillian Schwartz is another Bell athlete who fell short of making the pole vault finals.
Scott’s training has helped him go from clearing 15-feet-2-inches in high school in 1999 to win the Nebraska state tournament to clearing 19-feet-1¼-inches in a recent meet.
“I remember hitting 15 and that was a bit of a hard deal. As a freshman in college (Allegheny College), I went 16-2 or 16-3, but hitting 16 wasn’t an issue,” Scott said. “Then I was hitting 16-6 or 16-9 pretty regularly and couldn’t make 17. It was a cursed height.
“Finally, I went 16-11 easily and then made 17-2. The following week, I went 17-7 and two weeks later, 18 feet.”
Scott said Bell’s greatest strength is helping pole vaulters master all the small decisions they have to make.
“The pole vault isn’t like the 100 meters, where you just go run. There are so many moving parts you can control and make decisions about,” he said. “How high are your grips? Where is your run mark? The pole itself.”
Scott went to Allegheny College to play football, but after breaking his foot during his sophomore year he decided to focus on the pole vault. Scott’s 6-foot-9¾-inch height earned him the nickname “El Grande” as a pole vaulter.
Scott went on to win the indoor and outdoor title in NCAA Division III. He was the runner-up at the U.S. indoor competition in 2003 and won the event in 2009. He also was the runner-up at the last two outdoor championships.
“I don’t know that it has sunk in that I’m going to be in the Olympics. It’s just a step in the process and we’re not done yet,” he said. “I believe I have a shot to win a medal and I won’t be happy until they hang it around my neck.”