When Ryan’s Avery Stuchell competes in the pole vault this weekend at the UIL Class 6A state track and field meet in Austin, those going against the relative newcomer may not have as big an advantage as one would think.
Stuchell, a junior, has only been pole vaulting for just more than a year and is in her first season on varsity. But the converted gymnast — Stuchell is Ryan’s first female state track qualifier since 2003 — has defied conventional wisdom with her meteoric rise against a field of veteran athletes who have spent years perfecting their craft.
“It would be surreal to win state because I know there are a lot more people who have been doing this for a long time,” Stuchell said. “I’m sure it [newcomers doing well] has happened before, but it usually doesn’t. I would say it probably takes nine months to feel comfortable with what you are doing, let alone do well.
“There are a lot of girls out there who have gone higher. I think I can, too.”
The 6A girls pole vault competition will start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Stuchell boasts the fifth-best height in the state based on regional performances. She won the Region I meet with a vault of 12 feet, 3 inches, but her personal best is 12-7 1/4 from this year’s Texas Relays. Colleen Clancy of Spring Branch Smithson Valley has the best vault in the state at 13 1/4.
Until now, Ryan girls coach Jayme Kiraly said Stuchell’s job wasn’t to focus solely on height.
“Her job has been about finding a way to keep advancing to the next stage — only focusing on going as high as she needed to go to keep moving forward,” Kiraly said. “It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to simply go as high as you possibly can, but Avery has done great focusing on getting her job done first. Now that she has done that, we can see what else [height] she can get.”
Stuchell — nicknamed “Spidey” for her love for climbing things — can credit her rise to state to years of gymnastics training. Before stepping away from that sport, she was a Level 9 gymnast. There are 10 levels, the highest reserved for elite or Olympic-caliber athletes.
Stuchell practiced four to five hours a day, five days a week in gymnastics, and prided herself on being good at everything. Even though it wasn’t her passion, gymnastics gave her impeccable body control and discipline from an early age.
“I loved it, but I never saw myself going further with it,” Stuchell said.
To improve her vaulting, Stuchell meets with private coach Devin Rodriguez of Pinnacle Vault Club five days each week for more individualized workouts. She’s improved significantly since her first meet March 21, 2014.
“She’s the hungriest kid I’ve ever seen. She wants this [state meet] so bad,” Kiraly said. “She works her butt off and is willing to do the extra things like rings and sand pit. She never complains.”
For Stuchell, the payoff would be a gold medal.
“I feel like there has always been a lot of potential at this school to get to state, but it’s been so long since anyone has gone,” Stuchell said. “I didn’t expect this when I first started pole vaulting, but I’m excited.”
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