When Notre Dame pole vaulter Nate Richartz is competing, he doesn’t mind a little noise.
“Pole vaulting is a unique sport,” said Richartz, a McHenry East graduate. “The energy of the crowd and the support of the people around you can definitely propel you to higher heights.”
At last weekend’s Atlantic Coast Conference meet in Boston, Richartz had plenty of voices behind him.
“My entire team was set up in the stands right next to the pit,” he said. “I had a great crowd. It was good to have them right there.”
Richartz, a junior, gave his teammates plenty to cheer about by winning the first conference title of his career and setting a school record with a vault of 17 feet, 11 inches on his final attempt of the competition.
“I was ecstatic about it,” said Richartz, who qualified for the NCAA indoor national championships for the first time in his career with the record vault. “I had the school record in mind ever since I came in freshman year. I wasn’t really expecting to hit it this year, though. That was quite a pleasant surprise.”
Richartz, who has the eighth-best vault entering this week’s indoor nationals in Birmingham, Alabama, had a difficult start to the ACC meet. He missed on his first attempt at the opening height of 16-5½, but quickly shook it off.
“I wasn’t really worried,” he said. “I was on too small of a pole for that particular jump. I went up in poles and everything was fine.”
Richartz, who entered the meet ranked third in conference, moved all the way up to 17-5½, which he made on his third attempt. When other vaulters failed to clear the bar, Richartz had a conference title but not complete peace of mind.
“When the final vaulter missed and I knew I had won, [vault coach Jim Garnham] came over and was real excited,” he said. “I waved him off a little bit and said, ‘We’ve still got some work to do. We’ve still got to qualify.’ ”
Richartz said the pair talked for at least 5 minutes about where to put the bar to ensure national qualification.
“He was giving me all these options and I said, ‘I’m brain dead right now. I just want to focus on jumping.’ So he said, ‘OK, we’re going to go to (17-11),’ ” he said. “I knew it (the school record) was in the back of my head. But I didn’t want the number to mean too much.”