Pole vaulters continue to raise the bar

In the midst of a number of other teams finishing their respective seasons, The College at Brockport men’s and women’s indoor track and field team is continuing its success with its always solid pole vaulting unit.

It seems even if either of the track and field teams have a below average meet, the pole vaulters are always on top of the event leaderboard.

The Golden Eagles have established themselves as a strong pole vaulting team within the last couple years with the help of alum Zach Ferrara, holder of the Brockport men’s team indoor and outdoor pole vault records of 5.09 meters and 5.00 meters, respectively. Ferrara is currently a member of the USA Track and Field sanctioned Rochester Rockback pole vaulting team.

During his tenure at Brockport, Ferrara captured the 2012 and 2013 SUNYAC indoor pole vaulting title and in 2013 also secured the SUNYAC outdoor pole vaulting title.

It’s not just Ferrara who has laid down the recent foundation for future Golden Eagle pole vaulters. Former Golden Eagle Marcy Merrit holds the Brockport women’s team record for outdoor pole vaulting when she cleared 3.60 meters in 2014.

Merrit won the SUNYAC title in outdoor pole vaulting in 2014 and 2015 and won the indoor title in 2015.

The years Ferrara and Merrit dominated the pole vaulting event there were a number of underclassmen nipping at their heels for the No. 1 spot. Because of that, there was never a shortage of success in the event.

At the Golden Eagle Multi and Invitational Saturday, Jan. 30, Brockport hosted U.S. Olympian Jennifer Suhr, a Western New York Native and alumna of Roberts Wesleyan College, as she broke her own women’s indoor pole vaulting world record clearing a height of 5.03 meters.

Where is a better place to break an indoor pole vaulting record than at one of the strongest pole vaulting schools in the area? I’m sure the Golden Eagles learned a lot from watching an Olympian warm up and compete.

This year there are a number of capable student-athletes with a lot of pole vaulting potential, especially with the guidance of Ferrara. Senior pole vaulter Cameron Shaughnessy, winner of last year’s indoor pole vaulting SUNYAC title, has been edged out of the spotlight by junior pole vaulter Whitman Oehler-Marx.

I attended the same high school as Shaughnessy and remember some of my friends who were pole vaulters admiring his leadership and ability; it seems to have carried on to the collegiate level.

Oehler-Marx has the eighth highest clear this season in Division III at 4.85 meters, a feat which he accomplished in the team’s first meet of the season. His most recent clear was 4.60 meters at the Brockport Invitational Saturday, Feb. 20, which was good for a top-three finish alongside teammate sophomore pole vaulter Kyle Cohen.

Junior pole vaulter Josh Steinman finished with a clear of 4.50 meters in the aforementioned meet and posted the twentieth highest indoor clear in Division III of 4.70 meters.

Cohen, Oehler-Marx, Steinman and Shaughnessy all qualified for the ECAC Championships.

On the women’s side of things, freshman pole vaulter Claire Fisher finished first at the Brockport Invitational with a clear of 3.45 meters and won the event by .10 meters. Fisher is currently ranked No. 42 in the Division III; that’s right, as a freshman. Her teammates junior pole vaulters Gabby Mercurio and Allison Gardella took the eighth and ninth spot, respectively.

So how is it that Brockport has such a strong pole vaulting unit?

While I may not have the answer I think I can speak for the new director of Track and Field Danielle Novara and say, “who cares?” I guess it doesn’t really matter how the team keeps being successful in the event as long as it continues doing so.

If I had to put my finger on it, I would guess a lot of it has to do with Ferrara. With his combination of passion for the sport and kind nature, he has been able to transform from a student-athlete to a passionate coach – not that he didn’t do his fair share of coaching when he was still a member of the team.

Success breeds success and because of this, the Brockport track and field program both indoor and outdoor will always have a strong pole vaulting unit, among its other strong event units. The team’s pole vaulters really seem to stand out when it comes down to it.

Be sure to come out and support the pole vaulters and the rest of the men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams as they compete in the SUNYAC Championships hosted by Brockport at Special Event Recreation Center. The event begins Friday, Feb. 26, and will finish Saturday, Feb. 27.





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