Teanna Shutt is a track and field rarity.
The Southern Columbia junior, who is well on her way to becoming a News-Item All-Area pick for the third straight season, is successful in two disparate disciplines of the sport – distance running and pole vaulting.
These disciplines are far apart because the people who do them are usually of two distinct athletic types. Distance runners are usally ectomorphs, as declared by a physique classification system devised by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, “The extreme ectomorph has a thin face with high forehead and receding chin; narrow chest and abdomen; a narrow heart; rather long, thin arms and legs; little body fat and little muscle; but a large skin surface and a large nervous system. If well fed, he does not gain weight easily.”
By comparison, pole vaulters tend to be mesomorphs. Again, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica, “The extreme mesomorph has a square, massive head; broad, muscular chest and shoulders; a large heart; heavily muscled arms and legs; and minimal body fat. He tends to develop muscle easily. His muscular development can usually be distinguished from that of one who has developed his muscles through body-building exercises.”
The third type are endomorphs, those who tend toward shot putting and discus throwing, in addition to playing offensive tackle.
Speaking very basically, ectopmorphs tend to be better in long distance events because their body type makes endurance easier, or at least as easy as any endurance activity can be. Mesomorphs tend to be sprinters and jumpers, using their upper bodies and powerful leg muscles in short, quick bursts, such as vaulting a bar. If pole vaulters do other events, they’re usually sprints or jumps.
Somehow, Teanna Shutt makes her body type work for both events. Maybe even more impressively, she finds time to make it work. Successful distance runners obviously need to chalk up miles and miles of running, which obviously takes lots of time.
On the other hand, pole vaulting is a very technique-specific event, which also takes a lot of time to master.
“I’m really lucky because our pole vaulting coach usually can’t get to practice until 4 or 4:30,” Shutt said after competing in a dual meet against Danville. “That means I can usually get all my running work done before he gets there.”
Shutt just missed going to the state championship meet in the 1600 meters last season, when she finished third at the District 4, Class AA meet with a time of 5:18.56, just .40 seconds off the qualifying standard for those who don’t automatically advance (the top two). She’s on that pace again this season, having run in the 5:30s. She has also done 12:16 in the 3200 meters, and is a sub 2:30 800-meter runner.
But she’s also very close to being a state level pole vaulter. She did better than 9 feet last season, and although she’s struggled at times this season (her best is 8-6), it’s an event she really likes.
“Pole vaulting breaks up the running, especially at invitationals and big meets,” Shutt said. “I can run a race and then go pole vault and not worry about the next race. But I have to be careful to know when I have to be at each event.”
Shutt could probably be better at each discipline if she concentrated on one or the other, but that wouldn’t necessarily help her team. She is Southern’s leading scorer again, and the second-leading scorer in the area behind Mount Carmel’s Ali Varano.
An all-around athlete who also plays soccer and basketball, Shutt said she doesn’t think much about an injury in one of the events causing her problems in the other. Although pole vaulting seems more dangerous, she noted she can get hurt just as easily running, with things such as shin splints, bone bruises and stress fractures.
“I haven’t gotten hurt yet,” she said. “I actually think doing both is good for me.”
She was upset with her performance against Danville. She ran behind the Ironmen’s traditionally strong distance runners and failed to place in the vault.
She said she’s been struggling all season with turning her body to get over the bar in the pole vault.
One of the advantages she thinks distance running gives her in the pole vault is endurance.
“We got into a jumpoff at Shikellamy. That was exciting because we all had to do extra jumps and the distance work helps me there,” she said. “The other vaulters get tired.”