When Texas Tech pole vaulter Shade Weygandt cleared 14 feet, 9 inches Saturday at the Red Raider Open, she had plenty to celebrate as she jumped off the mat. She broke her personal record, her women’s stadium record, moved to No. 2 in the NCAA rankings and met the Olympic A qualifying standard.
Maybe it also signaled that she’s all the way back from where she lay one year and one week before: on the mat at Stanford, having to be carried off with what turned out to be a partially torn quadriceps in two places.
“It’s definitely been quite a year. It’s been quite a trying year,” Weygandt said Tuesday before the Red Raiders left for the Big 12 championships at Manhattan, Kan. “After I tore it, it took about four months to properly run again, nine months to pole vault again and 10 months to compete again.
“I’ve only been (back) in the game for a couple of months, but I feel very blessed and happy that I am back in it and I am competing.”
Weygandt’s career-best mark came at a good time for the junior from Mansfield. The Big 12 meet runs today through Sunday. Then comes the NCAA West Preliminary May 24-26 in Austin and the NCAA championships June 6-9 at Des Moines, Iowa.
By clearing 14-9, Weygandt assured herself a spot in the Olympic Trials June 22-30 in Eugene, Ore.
No wonder she was hugging anyone she knew nearby when she did it.
“That’s the one I had to jump,” she said. “Once I jumped it, I was more than ecstatic.”
After the Tech Open on April 14, where Weygandt won with a 13-9, she wasn’t happy but predicted a good performance was coming. At the time, she said the results she’d been getting weren’t indicative of how well she’d been practicing. Last week, she entered at 13-9 and cleared two more heights before 14-9.
“It really was my best day,” she said. “There weren’t any third attempts. I was on it.
“I had really consistent jumps, and that’s what I’ve been lacking a lot lately. I’ll be able to get really amazing jumps off, but I won’t be able to do them consistently, one after another. If you can’t do that, then you can’t build on anything.”
Weygandt won the Big 12 outdoor pole vault title as a freshman in 2010. Last year, she no-heighted at the NCAA indoor meet, then had to shut it down for the outdoor season after she suffered the quadriceps injury April 30, 2011, competing at Stanford.
Weygandt and her coaches are still careful enough with the quad that she took two weeks off before competing last Saturday.
“I was just so thrilled for her, because she puts a lot of pressure on herself,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said. “I know she’s been wanting to meet that A standard, and of course it moved her to No. 2 in the NCAA. I’m really happy for her that she’s gaining that confidence at the right time of the year.”
The only vaulter ranked ahead of Weygandt at the moment is Arkansas’ Tina Sutej, a senior from Slovenia who cleared 14-11 on March 28 at the Texas Relays. Sutej won the 2011 NCAA indoor championship and set an NCAA record during the 2011 outdoor season by going 15-11/2.
Weygandt’s best finish at an NCAA national meet came two years ago, when she made all-American by placing ninth at outdoor.
“Hopefully this year all the stars can align and I can have a good meet,” she said.
By Don Williams