People often use the term, “the sky is the limit” to describe a situation of endless opportunity. We also “shoot for the sky” in hopes that if we fall short, our “short” will be better than anything we could have achieved had our sights been aimed lower.
This last Saturday, at the California State High School Track and Field Championships, Gino Colella vaulted for the sky, cleared the bar suspended 16′ 4″ above the ground and returned back to earth as the California State Men’s Pole Vault Champion. This was a feat that hadn’t been achieved by a Ventura County pole-vaulter since 1946.
Gino’s legal first name is Luigi, but all of his friends and family know him as Gino. If Eldrick Woods, the famous golf pro, can go by the name Tiger, then Luigi can go by Gino. A more fitting nickname would be Gino “The Jet” Colella. For this is what he resembles when he runs down the runway prior to launching himself into the atmosphere.
Saturday’s meet, held on June 1, 2013 at Buchanan High School in the town of Clovis, CA, was a hot and humid one. Nobody had it worse than the distance runners who had to run lap after lap in the searing heat. Even the spectators were sweltering while siting in the stands. The air was thick and there was no escaping the heat. The pole-vaulters did the best job of staying out of the sun. They set up lawn chairs under umbrellas and waited their turn to be called to the runway.
Security at the event was tight. Besides a dramatic increase of police personnel on the grounds and in the parking lots, there were hundreds of event staff attired in red shirts running around throughout the stadium. Only the athletes, the track officials and a few members of the press were allowed in the stadium track area. Even coaches were prohibited. From the stands, they video taped performances with their laptops and yelled out instructions to those athletes under their tutelage. Among them sat Antonio Colella, Gino’s father and coach. Throughout the meet, there was communication between the two in the form of shouting and hand gestures with which Antonio gave Gino advice and
Although Gino missed his first two attempts at 15′ 4″, he went on to make his third attempt. When the bar reached the height of 16′ 4, the majority of the other vaulters were eliminated. When it was Gino’s turn again, as he was standing on the runway with his pole resting on his shoulder, he proceeded to clap his hands over his head, over and over, inspiring the spectators to do the same. The metered clapping became louder. He took his pole in hand and took off down the runway. The clapping sped up as he approached the launch point. He planted the pole. It bent into a huge C then snapped back, launching Gino up towards the bar. All the elements needed for perfection came together and he easily cleared the bar. This vault ultimately gave him the 1st first place win.
When Gino was declared the first place winner, Antonio was ecstatic. He immediately made a phone call to a loved one and held the phone up in the air so that the person he was talking to could hear the stadium’s public address system declare Gino as the State Champion. Gino then took his place on the winner’s podium over the big black #1. Photographs were taken and metals issued. After some final good-byes to the other elite vaulters, it was time for him to gather up his poles and make his exit. This goal had been completed. For the time being, the drama and the pressure of competition was over. It was time to relax, get a bite to eat and make the 4 hour drive back to Thousand Oaks.
Very few athletes are able to rise to that unique level of being the best in the State. The years of practice under the coaching of his father had paid off.
Gino’s next goal is to break the Italian National record. He and his father will be leaving for Italy next week. If all goes according to plan, Gino will be adding Italian gold to his collection of trophies and metals as he vaults for the sky. Buona Fortuna Gino.