After a wrist injury derailed a budding gymnastics career, James Steck had every right to be upset and angry at the hand fate had dealt him.
When surgery and rehab could not correct his wrist problems, Steck left the sport he’d been competing in since he was 3 years old and took up pole vaulting for the Shaker track and field team.
“That was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life so far,” Steck said. “It was devastating, because I had to have surgery because I had some wrist issues, just escalating over the years from the pounding from gymnastics.”
The decision was a difficult, but ultimately rewarding one for Steck, who won the indoor state championship in March less than a year after taking up the sport. He’s now gearing up for an encore in his senior season.
Steck joined the Blue Bison in time for last year’s outdoor season and promptly qualified for the state title meet following an impressive performance at the state qualifier.
“Two of my friends are pole vaulters,” Steck said. “I told them, once I start something, I want to be the best I can at it. I’m not just going to sit back and watch things pass by me. I want to be the best.”
Steck was the best at last month’s state indoor championship meet.
“It was exciting, it was surreal. I didn’t think I could do it,” Steck said. “I could never imagine pulling it off.”
The transition from the gymnastics mats to the pole vault was a natural one for Steck, because gymnasts and experienced divers often become very good pole vaulters.
“It’s a lot of the same mechanics, but it is also a mental state, too. Those gymnasts and divers are fearless,” Shaker coach Garrett Couture said. “The ability for them to go upside down is something that a lot of kids hesitate with. If they’ve been on the bars or on the platform or springboard, they’ve done that before, and that is one of the biggest hurdles to clear.”
Steck once dreamed of competing at the Division I level in gymnastics, but now he intends on pole vaulting next year at Virginia Tech, where he plans to major in art.