Wooster’s Romero eyes another pole vault title

There are a lot of high school sprinters, jumpers and hurdlers out there who initially thought they might be pole vaulters.

The pole vault, though, requires a unique combination of strength, technique and fearlessness. It takes guts to be willing to turn upside down while hanging onto a slim rod of fiberglass, all of which is happening many feet off the ground. It’s the biggest factor in turning ex-vaulters toward other — and what must seem like saner — events.

The guts part was never a problem for Wooster’s Alexis Romero, though.

Romero grew up taking her lumps and hitting the mat too many times to count as a young gymnast. Falling from heights was already second nature to her when she first became interested in the pole vault as a Wooster freshman.

That fearlessness has served her well. Combined with solid speed, good upper-body strength and the sort of body control that’s learned in sports like gymnastics, Romero has become one of the top female vaulters in the country. She’s the returning Division I North Region and state champion, and would like nothing better than to defend those titles while breaking her state record vault of 12-foot-7 from a year ago.

“I’m kind of fearless because I did gymnastics, it’s not scary to me,” Romero said. “For some people, it’s really difficult to learn how to get upside down and stuff like that. Nobody’s really good at pole vault at first, because it’s a really awkward thing to learn. I picked it up easily, but I wasn’t super amazing at it right away.”

Romero’s 2014 season didn’t get off to such a hot start. Illness at the beginning of the season left her feeling weak and behind schedule in training, and she’s used her first few competitive outings to get back up to speed. She was at full strength Saturday at Reed, where she finished second with a height of 11-4 at the 23-team Reed Rotary Invitational.

“It’s getting better now, but it was a slow start (to the season),” Romero, who had a best height of 12-1 through the first half of the season, said. “I wasn’t healthy at first.”

Since taking up the pole vault, Romero progressed from quick learner to competitive athlete quickly. She’s notched steady improvement, turning in best heights of 10-0 as a freshman, 12-0 as a sophomore, 12-7 as a junior and 13-2 at an indoor meet in January. Wooster track coach Morgan Bishop said Romero’s improvement, visibility at school and overall success have served as a sort of beacon for the Colts’ track program.

“It definitely helps our program, with other kids being around her, working with her and seeing the success she has,” Bishop said. “It makes it real for them. It’s thinking, ‘Maybe I can do that.'”

Like many other successful high school athletes, Romero is narrowly focused on one specialty and receives instruction from a number of sources. In addition to Bishop, she trains with Wooster pole vault coach Tony Mudd and with Randy Bryant at the Raise the Bar Pole Vault Club in west Reno.

Mudd said Romero will rebound from the time she lost to her early-season illness and will again be the vaulter to beat at season’s end.

“She’s had three-four meets where she’s been real consistent at 12 (feet),” Mudd said. “That’s going to lead to 12-6, and then, we’re going to be right back to that 13-2 mark. I think she’s on track. She’s being consistent at the 12 mark, and the higher heights will come.”

When her high school career wraps up, presumably at the 2014 state meet at Carson, Romero will turn her attention toward vaulting at the college level. She signed with Kansas in February, joining Reed basketball star Gabby Williams (Connecticut) and Spanish Springs quarterback Hunter Fralick (Nevada) as one of the region’s three most visible recruits.

Romero wants to leave Wooster with another state title and with a record height that would literally raise the bar for the girls pole vault. Whatever happens in May, though, she said she’s ready to embrace the challenge of competing at the next level.

“I’m so excited,” Romero said. “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think, ‘I want to go to Kansas.'”




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