The fact is, the pole vault doesn’t come naturally to anyone, according to Gietzen.
She vaulted 11 feet last spring to claim Century’s only individual title as the Patriots stormed to their second straight Class A state team championship.
So far, all systems are “go” for her junior year. Gietzen has won three times indoors, clearing 10-6 at the All-City Indoor and the state indoor and 10-0 at the WDA Indoor. She’s ambitious to add significantly to her personal best, but she’s experienced some peaks and valleys to get to this point.
Even with an athletic background that included gymnastics and diving, Gietzen discovered the transition to the pole vault was no picnic.
“I started out with pole vaulting because I thought gymnastics would help me out. Gymnastics requires a lot of upper-body strength … and both gymnastics and diving involve a lot of body control,” Gietzen said.
Although Gietzen no longer competes in gymnastics, she’s one of the best in diving. She finished third at the state meet last fall.
Those other sports did, indeed, prove to be advantageous. However, Gietzen discovered vaulting is a world of its own.
“Basically you have to learn everything about vaulting — the technique,” she said. “… I was like ‘this is harder than it looks.’”
Gietzen is a doer. She wants to get things done. The vault, however, is a stern professor, demanding patience.
“My freshman year I was really frustrated because I like to catch on to things fast,” she recalled. “My coach told me it takes time, but I didn’t want to take the time to become a good vaulter. … I was very frustrated to not be as good as I wanted that first season.”
Gietzen caught on quickly enough to go 10 feet toward the middle of her freshman year, but then she reached a plateau.
“I never got to 10 again,” she said.
She stuck with it and her patience was rewarded last spring.
“Last year I did peak at the end,” she said.
Indeed, she saved her best vault of the season for the state meet.
Plus, she added a sixth place in the triple jump, leaping 34-9½.
“Last year in the triple jump I was jumping in the high 32s … and in the WDA I had a 35-0½. I finished really well.”
Gietzen’s performance in the vault at the WDA meet was another matter. She failed to make her opening height and didn’t place.
“That made me really nervous for state … but I practiced really hard in my run and technique the next week and felt pretty confident,” she said. “Then at state I was late to warmups because I didn’t hear the calls.”
This spring, Gietzen wants to perform more consistently in the pole vault. She wants to win another team championship, defend her vault title and at least match last year’s effort in the triple jump. And she has another quest in mind.
“The school (pole vault) record is 11-1 by Sierra Kreft. I really hope to get that record this year,” she said.
Coach Nick Walker will also run Gietzen in the relays, a task she added last spring.
Gietzen said that type of versatility is one reason Century has won the last two state team titles.
“Our team this year has so much depth. The girls do multiple events and the freshman girls this year will be very helpful,” she said. “… Last year we had a lot of good seniors, but I think we can make up for that with our depth.”
Century had hoped to open the outdoor season Saturday at the Dick Karlgaard Invitational at the Community Bowl. Threatening weather forced cancellation of that meet, meaning the Patriots — and the other Bismarck-Mandan boys and girls teams — will have to wait until next week.
A bit here and a bit there
Century won last year’s state championship bit by bit. Gietzen was the only individual champion, but the Patriots scored in 15 other events. That added up to a 129-91 edge on runner-up Bismarck.
The vault was by far Century’s biggest point producer. Gietzen and seniors Kreft and Ann Govig went 1-2-3 as the Patriots racked up 28 points.
They added 13 points each in the triple jump and shot put and 19 in the relays.
Walker said that’s the same formula the Patriots will have to use this spring in search of a third straight state championship.
“We’ve had a lot of depth the last two years, so we’ve been able to hang in there,” he said. “… This year we may have a few more kids who can finish in the top three and still have great depth.”
It didn’t hurt that the Patriots picked up junior sprinter Haley Smith, who placed third in the 60 and third in the 200 at the state indoor. Smith transferred to Bismarck from Texas.
Walker said the key to maintaining depth is to get as many state qualifiers as possible. Last spring the Patriots had 12 girls who qualified in open events but didn’t place.
“We try to get as many kids as possible exposed to the state meet,” he said. “… By the time they’re juniors and seniors they’re able to compete for us and that gives us more relay options, too.”
Century fell just a fraction of a point from outdistancing the pack by 60 at the state indoor.
Walker said the state indoor meet shows who the contenders may be, but it’s not an accurate reflection of relative strength.
“Not everyone is up and really running yet,” he said. “… It shows us that Bismarck High and West Fargo are the teams to watch. And Fargo Davies could be in there, too.”