Pole vaulter hopes to use Bison Classic as stepping stone to CIS glory

Sports is all about reaching higher, climbing the standings or shooting to the top.

University of Manitoba Bisons athlete Melissa Richards, on the other hand, has the most fun in her sport when she’s falling, which is the joy of being a pole vaulter.

“Really exciting,” Richards said Monday. “I like falling. Once you clear the bar you’re like, ‘Oh good,’ and then you just get to fall.”

Richards, a 20-year-old who attended Dakota Collegiate, hopes to fall from great heights this weekend when the U of M hosts its fifth annual Bison Classic track and field meet at Max Bell Fieldhouse.

“It’s a well-respected meet across the country,” Bisons track coach Claude Berube said. “They know that the facility is fast, so that’s one of the main reasons why they come.”

Richards will be gunning to tie her personal best of 3.70 metres in the pole vault this weekend. Her ultimate goal is to clear four metres, and she’s been working on her plant lately in an effort to one day get there.

“That will hopefully let me get on bigger poles,” she said, “which will allow me to go higher.”

A few technique changes in the last year resulted in a bit of a dip in performance, but Berube said Richards is starting to see the fruits of her labour.

“She’s doing really well,” Berube said. “She had a bit of a rough summer, but I can see in the last couple meets things are starting to come back together.”

Richards has qualified for the last two CIS championships and shouldn’t have a problem qualifying for a third. She is ranked fourth in Canada West and 10th in the CIS. Four metres gets her an automatic entry into the CIS event, as does a top 12 ranking.

Richards will be one of more than 350 athletes competing this weekend, and they will come from eight universities and various clubs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“This is our first real opportunity to see the other Canada West schools, and doing well in Canada West is one of the ways to qualify for the (CIS) championship,” Berube said. “So it gives us a good measuring stick of what needs to be done for the next three weeks after that to prepare for our trip to Edmonton.”







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