Emily Grove’s coaches saw glimpses of the future last year at the NCAA Division I outdoor track and field meet, and the junior from Pontiac, Ill., has done nothing but live up to those expectations during this indoor track season.
Led by reigning NCAA outdoor champion Bethany (Buell) Firsick, the Coyote pole vaulters have consistently provided the program with nationally acclaimed accomplishments over the last few years, so when Grove went 14-4 on Saturday at the Iowa State Classic – the second-best college vault in the nation this year – it was not earthshaking stuff.
The fact remains, however, that at heights where “the real estate gets more expensive” in the words of USD vaulting coach Derek Miles, Grove is living in a nicer neighborhood these days. She recorded a personal best 14-5.25 in mid-January at the National Pole Vault Summit and went 14-3.5 on Feb. 1 at the Bill Bergan Invitational. Then came the 14-4 on Saturday.
“I was working on a lot of technical things at the meet (on Saturday), I wasn’t worried as much about the bar,” Grove said. “When you’re working on technique, though, that’s the goal – you want to see improvement.”
Grove was a first-team All-American last spring for the second consecutive season by clearing 14-1.75, a personal best for 2013, at the NCAA outdoor meet in Oregon. It was very nearly her best ever, but even so, not quite the splash coaches thought might be coming. They’re seeing more signs now that big heights are in her immediate future.
“When you’re jumping that high, you only have to be a little off and it just doesn’t work,” Miles said. “But when she gets some of the little pieces together, it’s going to be a high jump. (On Saturday) she left the bar wobbling at 14-7, landed on the pit and then the bar came off. That’s heartbreaking but at the same time, that jump wasn’t quite right. When she does put it all together, I could see her hitting 14-9. She’s been consistently taking shots at bigger bars this year and when you get your second shot at a new height, it doesn’t seem quite as high.”
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