Andrew Pope’s pole vaulting career really took off when he let his life turn upside down.
“A big problem for me was getting completely inverted, or upside down,” Pope said. “If you don’t get upside down, then you’re just going to be what they call ‘flagging out’ at the top – where instead of going straight up and over the bar, you’re going at an angle.”
It did not exactly hinder Pope, but it limited his potential. He was the Class 4A state champ in high school his junior year at Buhler, vaulting 14 feet, and was a state placer his senior season with the same jump height.
Getting inverted is one of several tricks Pope is using to polish his pole vaulting abilities at Hutchinson Community College.
Pope already has the school record with a 15-feet-7-inch indoor jump. He cleared 15-3 to win the Region VI title this indoor season.
Flashes of Pope’s capabilities started to show last season.
“Last year, he went almost 16 feet at the national meet, and that was a surprise,” said Blue Dragon coach Pat Becher. “He’s just been really consistent this year, too.”
It was at nationals that Pope found another potential flaw – the pole he was using was not big enough to meet his needs.
“I actually had to borrow a pole from another school because we didn’t have it,” Pope said. “I never jumped on it before, so you never know what it’s going to do, but in a competition you just have to go for it.”
The coaching staff alleviated that by bringing in two new poles for Pope. He now uses a 15-foot, 175-pound rating pole. He hopes to later get on a 15-foot-7-inch, 175-pound rating pole.
“One of them I haven’t got on yet, just because it is too big right now,” Pope said. “I’ve already used the other one, and it’s just five pounds heavier than the one I had, but it really does give you a lot more spring off the top.”
Pope is seventh in NJCAA in the outdoor season with a 15-foot-7-inch vault.
“My first goal is really getting 16 foot,” he said. “I cleared it a couple times at practice, but it is not official.”
A couple more facets need cleaned up for him to clear that mark. Pope wants to improve his form and takeoffs, and make the entire routine consistent.
A top-five performance at nationals is in sight for Pope – and maybe more, if he keeps finding ways to refine his craft.
“He’s going to have to go close to 17 feet. A year ago, I would’ve said that wasn’t possible,’ Becher said. “I think it’s up to him.”
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