MUNCIE — Cole Staton found a home with pole vaulting. The Central senior picked up the sport during high school, and his career highlights have included a sectional championship last season. It’s evolved into his favorite sport.
“It’s just so easy-going,” he said. “And it’s not just based on how fast you can run, you use all of your body when you pole vault.”
While Staton has enjoyed pole vaulting, few other athletes compete in the event in East Central Indiana, as it’s offered at handful of ECI schools. At last season’s Central Sectional, Staton was one of three vaulters to post a qualifying height. All three were from Central or Delta.
The Eagles’ Alysha Rhodes won the girls pole vault title in the Southside Sectional last spring, and she competed against an even smaller field. She was one of two vaulters to post a qualifying height, with the other coming from Burris.
Both those sectionals during the 2012 season featured six schools from Delaware County, all five Randolph County schools (though Union City did not field a girls track team last spring,) and Jay County.
New Castle also offers pole vaulting, but the Trojans traveled to the Connersville Sectional last year, where there were 12 competitors in the boys pole vault competition. New Castle’s Shae Baugh won the Connersville Sectional girls title last year, beating seven other vaulters.
With few athletes competing in pole vault in the area, athletes such as Staton and Rhodes can become a distinct advantage at certain meets where other schools don’t have vaulters. Central and Delta tied for the boys sectional crown last season, and though they were ahead of the third-place team by a wide margin, their vaulters helped pad their lead and guide them to the title.
At those same meets, schools without pole vaulters are sometimes forced to recover from the points other teams have gained in the event.
“You can look at it two ways,” Yorktown coach Jared Turner said. “We know ahead of time that we’re not going to have pole vault. So we kind of hammer that to our athletes. We’re starting off in maybe an 18-point hole, so we’re going to have to run our absolute best and not leave any points on the track if we expect to win anything. Because pole vault sets us behind.
“But it’s almost like a rallying point, because of the fact that we don’t have it, we know that we’re going to be starting from behind. And there’s no way we can ease up anywhere.”
In the wake of fatal pole vault accidents, the National Federation of State High School Associations changed its requirements approximately a decade ago to require larger mats, a measure that some schools found too costly to maintain the event.
Southside was one such school that dropped pole vault in wake of that change. When the Rebels host a sectional, the pole vault is now conducted off-site.
A recent study by Barry Boden and four other authors found that the number of catastrophic injuries in pole vaulting has dropped since larger mats have been required.
But Staton still wishes he had more vaulters to compete against. It would have made his sectional title even sweeter.
“It definitely would have been a lot better, knowing that I beat 8-16 people instead of two or three,” he said.