Jacob Terhune has coached pole vaulting at Rantoul Township High School for awhile, and he knows how hard it is to teach the sport to newcomers.
During his first-ever pole vaulting camp this summer, four new athletes impressed him with their rapid improvement in the event.
The camp was two-three days a week for three weeks, ending Thursday. Each session was 90-120 minutes depending on how the athletes felt.
“They came a long way because sometimes it takes a kid a year or two to get over 6 or 7 feet,” Terhune said. “Almost all of them have made it over 6-6.”
Preston Richardson, 13, of Rantoul is a track athlete at Eater who wanted to give the pole vault a try. With Eater maybe adding the event for the 2013-14 school year, he wanted to get a head start.
“I’m in gymnastics, and I thought it would help me in pole vaulting,” Richardson said. “It kind of looked fun going in the air.”
Richardson said gymnastics provides the flexibility and airborne body control to assist him in quickly acquiring the correct form. The pole vault is daunting to any new athlete, and Richardson needed to overcome that fear to advance.
“I think it was getting into the air faster,” Preston said. “Once I got that out of the way, I could get further and further up. At the very beginning, I didn’t think I was very good at it. When I started vaulting, it gave me more confidence to do more.”
Shelly Richardson, 14, said her brother Preston got her interested in trying the event and signed up right away.
“I’ve learned not to be afraid trying something new,” she said. “It’s all new. I’ve never tried a sport like this. I like it.”
She is an incoming RTHS freshman, and wants to compete in pole vault at the high school level.
“You have to drive and push it, really be aggressive as you attack the run,” Shelly Richardson said. “You have to remember to jump, too. I sometimes forget it.”
Other campers include Aly Hastings, 14, of Rantoul and Hannah Combs, 12, of Gifford.
All four were new to the sport, Terhune said, and did a tremendous job progressing in such a short time.
“Once they get the basics of the techniques, they have to get a lot of strength, speed and power,” Terhune said. “That’s going to help them get strong gains. A lot of the strength and conditioning pole vaulters do is what world class gymnasts do, so they have a tremendous core.”
RTHS senior Hayley Bell assisted Terhune in teaching the camp.
“They need the correct form, learning how to hold the pole, knowing their steps, and getting up in the air,” Bell said. “Some people are scared to jump, so they chicken out and fall into the mat.”
The newcomers loved having Bell as an assistant, especially someone who only started competing as a sophomore.
“It’s very nice looking at her as an example because sometimes I get confused,” Shelly Richardson said. “If Jacob tells us to do something and she shows us, it’s easier to understand.”
Bell has in her sights the 9-0 school record, getting 7-6 during the season but 8-0 this summer. She said much of her gains come from getting a good plant before flying into the air.
“Jacob said I’m improving a lot from the season, which was a few months ago,” Bell said. “He thinks I could get the school record like at the beginning of next season, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Terhune said on July 17, Bell got full bend on the pole, which she never achieved before.
“She’s now learning the techniques needed to take full advantage of it to get her above 9 or 10 feet.”
All the campers want to continue the sport, and Bell thinks she knows why.
“It’s different,” Bell said. “It’s really cool and fascinating to people.”