COLUMBUS — One of the best high school pole vaulters in the state has signed with one of the best pole-vaulting programs.
Scotus Central Catholic’s Tara Starzec has signed her National Letter of Intent to be the University of Sioux Falls’ newest pole vaulter.
Before her senior season, Starzec already owns Scotus’ vaulting record and is a pole vaulting state runner-up.
But her junior season didn’t start out strong, as her first meet was a disappointment.
“She went on and set a school record and got a silver medal,” Scotus girls track coach Janet Tooley said. “It was amazing how the season started versus how the season ended. Sometimes good lessons come from failure. She took the first meet, understood what she did wrong and learned from it and got better each week.”
Starzec has a lot of room to grow, and is thus far under-developed as a vaulter, according to both Tooley and her future college coach, Reid Ehrisman.
As far as the expectations at the University of Sioux Falls, Ehrisman is excited about what she can do.
“She’s going to come into probably one of the top pole-vault programs in the nation,” Ehrisman said. “She can come in right away and contribute at the conference level and eventually, maybe as a freshman, she could make it to the national level. We don’t like to put those kinds of expectations out there, but we do like to tell people to dream big and realize their goals. Down the line, she could be a top vaulter for us.”
The Shamrock senior doesn’t get a lot of time in the weight room due to other early morning activities.
“She hasn’t spent a lot of time in the weight room because of early morning flag/dance corps practices,” Tooley said. “So at the collegiate level, when she can develop strength, she has the capability to go much higher. Their coaches really have had a great tradition of taking very good vaulters and continuing their development into great vaulters.”
Starzec is looking forward to what she can accomplish in her senior track season.
“I just hope that I end my last year of high school with a good season,” she said. “Obviously, I really hope that it’ll be a good transition to get me up to the level where I can compete with the team that I’ll be apart of next year.”
Tooley offered her own opinion on the expectations of Starzec’s senior year.
“You hate to sell anyone short, and she’s looking for the gold this year,” Tooley said. “She has to do a lot of things right. All she can do is take care of herself and do everything to the best of her ability. She can’t control what other athletes are doing. My hopes for her is she finishes the year on top, whether or not she does that, my expectations are that she’ll still have an awesome season.”
Starzec didn’t always focus only on vaulting.
“She started out as a nice hurdler and vaulter for us,” Tooley said. “She had some issues with her hips and had to give up hurdles. While focusing on vaulting, she had one of those seasons last year where she just exploded.”
Starzec is already able to take away a few lessons from her high school days.
“In high school, I have a great coach, and the people on the team have been awesome,” Starzec said. “I’m really going to miss everybody. I feel like the workouts that we’ve done and all the work that we’ve put into it has really helped me to care about the sport and give me motivation.”
Starzec was recruited as more than just a student athlete.
“Through the recruiting process, Tara has been such a great gal,” Ehrisman said. “Firstly, she’s going to bring a lot of great qualities as a person in terms of the Christian values we have at USF, and she’ll be adding to the positive team community. Secondly, she’s a great athlete. We’ve had her at a number of our pole-vault camps, so we got to see that she’s a good athlete, and she’s easy to coach.”
She will bring a competitive edge that will be valued by her future coaches and teammates.
“Her best attribute is her competitiveness. She refuses to get beat,” Scotus vaulting coach Kim Grubaugh said. “If she does get beat, she’s going to go down swinging.”
According to Grubaugh, Starzec is responsible for her own success.
“She’s a very hard working, competitive kid,” Grubaugh said. “She has set very high goals for herself and she’s worked very hard to achieve those goals, which has led to the success that she has seen.”
Starzec’s decision to attend the University of Sioux Falls was more than just an athletic decision. She is a straight-A student who values the academic and religious sides of school just as much, if not more than sports.
“I mainly looked for more of an academic aspect in each school,” Starzec said. “I was really attracted to Sioux Falls because it is such a faith-based school, and that’s really important to me.”
While vaulting her way through college, Starzec will double-major in English and Youth Ministry.