At little more than a few square feet you pretty much have to look for it. During gym class at Bridgewater Elementary School it probably makes for nothing more than a dull echo as a fifth grader dribbles a basketball on it, hinting little at its significance.
Much like buried treasure though, the key is to dig it up. No shovel or Treasure Island map necessary; the wood peels right off and reveals what may very well be the secret to the Raiders’ pole-vaulting success.
“I wouldn’t be here if this wouldn’t have been put in here,” track and field assistant coach Jerry Larson said.
The “this” is a metallic-lined hole, and a perfect landing spot for Northfield athletes to practice planting one end of their pole into before vaulting into the air and landing on a waiting pit.
“The indoor setup is really cool,” senior Joe Donahoe said. “Not many other schools in the state have this.”
Therein lies the biggest advantage for Northfield, something that has helped produce state-meet caliber vaulters and a steadily increasing ceiling on the record book. Just like every other team the Raiders will hit their outdoor pole vault pit when the weather allows. But while every other team runs or lifts weights as they wait for the snow to melt, Northfield does the real thing.
“This sport you’ve got to vault. We can do all these things to get faster and stronger, but this is not a natural event,” Larson said. “Sooner or later you’ve got to practice.”
For Northfield, it’s sooner rather than later.
“You just pick up where you left off [from the year before]; it’s kind of like riding a bike,” Donahoe said. “It’s really nice being able to vault as the season starts until the weather starts to cooperate.”