A season ago, Sarver had made the jump to a state-level athlete, but failed to get a height in his three attempts at the 2012 Ohio High School Athletic Association’s pole vault championship. This year was a lot different. Not only did Sarver clear the opening height, but he went on to set a personal best of 14 feet, 6 inches at the state meet. His previous best was set a week earlier at the Regional Championships when he broke the 14-3 mark. “I’m pretty happy with it,” Sarver said. “I just recently got on the 15 (foot) 165 (pound), and that let me get the extra three inches on top of my PR.”
It almost didn’t come to that. With the bar set at 14 feet, Sarver hit the bar on his first two attempts, giving him one more opportunity to advance. At the time, only five of the 16 competitors had been knocked out of the competition. On the third attempt, Sarver cleared the bar, paving the way for his personal record.
Placing sixth among this year’s competition was quite a finish for the Eaton senior. Sarver and the other competitors were not only facing the two-time defending Division II champion in Bellevue’s Matt Rowland, but an entire field of talented vaulters.
The 14-6 height which put Sarver in sixth place would have been second among the 2012 competitors. Last season, just one athlete (Rowland) cleared the 14-6 mark. This year, nine guys cleared 14-6.
“It was really deep this year,” Sarver said. “Last year, 14-6 got second place. This year, 14-6 didn’t even get you on the podium. It just got a lot deeper this year. Talent-wise, it definitely increased.”
Sarver’s pole vault coach Rick McCollum was as excited for the finish as the athlete himself.
“He had a PR. That’s always exciting,” McCollum said. “You shoot for those PRs. We had a good practice on Tuesday. We went up to Fort Wayne and jumped there. We helped him get on that 15-foot 165, and that’s what got him there.”
Sarver said a trip to Fort Wayne after last year’s state meet got him to change his approach. He changed from the American style of vaulting in which the athlete jumps into the vault to a European style, where he let the speed of his approach preload the pole.
He was also more mentally prepared after having seen the grandeur of the state tournament a year before.
“I would say I was a little more mentally prepared,” he said. “Normally, the mental game doesn’t really play into it that much for me.”
Before the season started, Sarver had a personal best height of 13-6, and the additional foot this season was a huge step for him.
“Once you get up past 13 feet, going up a foot between seasons is a pretty large change,” he said.
“We were hoping for even more, but that’s a whole foot,” McCollum said. “Once you get around 13-6, it’s not like you’re going to go in huge jumps.”
McCollum also said Sarver’s work in the winter during wrestling season helped strengthen him for the spring competition.
“He wrestled, so he was strong,” he said. “That core really makes a big difference, and wrestling definitely helps.”
Now that Sarver has closed his high school career with a podium finish, he’ll be heading to Ohio University in the fall to study, and Eaton’s track team will be losing not just a quality pole vaulter, but a leader.
“He’s extremely smart, a good technician,” McCollum said. “He knows what to look for. He’s helped our other vaulters too. The kids hold him with respect. When he talks, they listen. He is a good technician. He really is. He knows what he needs to do.
He continued: “That was a great finish to a great career. He started jumping in seventh grade, and this is where you want to be: on the podium your senior year. It’s exciting. He did a good job.”