For most people, the idea of flinging yourself over ten feet into the air using just a thin, flimsy pole is daunting. However, for senior Emma- Claire McCarthy and junior Taylore Jaques, this is just another day at track practice.
Pole vault, which is a subcategory of track at Pres, is an event in which an athlete sprints towards an elevated, horizontal beam and catapults herself over the beam using a pole. “When people ask me what pole vaulting is, I say it’s the thing that people do in the Olympics where they run with the huge pole and then fling themselves in the air. That usually rings a bell,” McCarthy said.
Though there is only a small group of people that participate in this sport at Pres, the ones that do have a great passion for it. Jaques and McCarthy are no doubt examples of these passionate people as they have both been on the pole vault team for several years. Jaques, who has jumped as high as 13-feet-4-inches, has been on the team for three years now. McCarthy has jumped as high as 12 feet and has been on the team for four years.
For Jaques, her pole vault career began even before she attended school at Pres. “I started pole vaulting the summer before my freshman year. I started to because my dad used to pole vault and was the coach for Bellarmine and Presentation. Also, I had basically grown too tall for gymnastics, and pole vault was a natural fit after it!” Jaques said.
Though Jaques began her pole vaulting career with her years of preparation in gymnastics, she still did not deny that the art of hurling yourself over a beam is difficult to master. “It’s much harder than it looks. Every little detail can have a huge effect on your jump. And no jump is ever perfect. You can always improve somehow. And everyone has a slightly different technique. But you know and feel when you have a good jump,” she said.
Despite that it is challenging and very physically demanding, Jaques admitted that the feeling of pole vaulting is like no other.
McCarthy agreed with Jaques in that pole vaulting is an amazing experience, and even said that she first joined the team because it looked fun. “I started pole vaulting my freshman year. I was initially on the sprints team, but when I saw the pole vaulters start practicing, that looked like so much more fun than sprinting, so I decided to join in, and I’m glad I did!”
Though some days it is hard to accomplish a good jump, McCarthy said that there are also times where it feels easy and flawless.
“There’s this thing we call “catching the ride.” It’s when you do everything right, and instead of having to muscle your way over the bar, the pole just pushes you into the air. Those are the jumps where you feel yourself pause for a moment at the top of the jump. During that split second that you reach the height of the jump, everything slows down and is quiet for that movement and you feel like you are flying. That’s my kind of adrenaline rush,” McCarthy said.
Despite being very competitive in their sport, Jaques and McCarthy are extremely supportive of each other despite other people’s perceptions. “[People] always assume we don’t like each other!” McCarthy said. What’s even more amazing is that Jaques and McCarthy are also very supportive of their competitors as well.
“That was one of the first things I noticed about pole vault–that competitors tend to be really supportive of each other since it is such a small community,” McCarthy said.
Both Jaques and McCarthy will be extending their pole vault careers into college.