Friday, February 24, 2012

New Website Up And Running!

Hey guys, this is the final post on this blog. We've had a good run on here but it's time to step it up! Because I now have a full website with a blog as one of the pages. Check it out and please continue to follow and support me on my path to success as a professional pole vaulter. See ya on the new site!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

5.50m/18'0.5" a day before deadline! PowerBar and New Site Coming Soon!!

I finally hurdled that 18 foot barrier that had been avoiding me all indoor season so far. It's been a big year for me so far in practice, nutritionally, physically, and mentally, but I just haven't gotten the results I've wanted yet. You better believe I'm still not even close to being satisfied with 5.50m, but it's a barrier nonetheless. 5.50m is the qualifying mark for the Indoor US Championships NEXT WEEKEND. I already booked my flight, hotel, and planned a flight straight from Albuquerque out to LA on the Tuesday after USA's to leave for Japan that same day. I finally got on my 5m 13.7 pole again and it proved to be a money pole once again! Before this weekend, my season best was 5.41m/17'9"... sub-par for a professional pole vaulter. Being consistently over 5.60m with a few meets over 5.70m and 5.80m over the next year, then higher from then on. Now that you know where my head's at, we'll find out where my results will be throughout the year. On Friday I jumped in the Missouri Collegiate Challenge with 12 other guys and opened up at 5.30m/17'4.5". I cleared it on my second attempt and 3 of us who cleared that decided to move up to 5.42m because we thought that would be the bar that would qualify us for USA's since there aren't many guys over 5.50m/18'0.5" (the automatic qualifying mark). None of us made 5.42m... I never even got a shot at 5.50m, which was my ultimate goal for this weekend. I had entered myself in both competitions at Missouri, the college meet on Friday and the High School/Open Meet on Saturday, held at the same track just in case I needed to jump in both. Well unfortunately I needed that second meet to attempt a higher qualifying mark. I already mentioned that my season best this indoor season was 5.41m... Well I decided to start the competition at 5.50m/18'0.5". I'm not sure how often other people start one of their most crucial competitions at a height I haven't even jumped yet this year. By gosh it was just what I needed! The girls competition started at 8:30am and lasted until 12:45pm. The boys comp started at 2:00pm and 6 hours later, I cleared 5.50m on my second attempt! It was a new record long competition that lasted 6.5 hours total. I proudly took up the last half hour! After I cleared 5.50m (by scraping it pretty good, ha) I moved up to 5.72m/18'9.25" (Olympic and World Championships Qualifying Standard, which I have to clear if I want to make it to those meets). I haven't seen the videos yet, but I had 2 good attempts at it which was what I really wanted. I need more attempts at higher bars like that which was part of the reason why I skipped all the way up to it. The other reason was because I jumped the day before and my legs were fried! To conclude this session, I have officially qualified for the US Indoor Championships next Sunday and I plan on competing for a spot on the podium! I will then fly from Albuquerque to LA, on to Japan, compete at the Nishida Cup in Toyota City on March 3rd, then come back to the States on the 4th!
On another note, I just accepted a sponsorship from PowerBar to be on their Team Elite! So I want to thank PowerBar for the awesome opportunity and I hope to make you a proud sponsor!! So everybody go buy something from RIGHT NOW!
Last thing, I promise... Nevho Designs is currently building me a new website and I will be launching it by the end of this week if I can get stuff done on my end in time!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Leap forward, big step backward.

Everytime I make a breakthrough in my vaulting, something else goes wrong. I've been trying so hard to be taller coming into my take-off and driving my chest forward in an attempt to get on longer, stiffer poles. Well apparently those aren't the best key words for me. Last weekend I competed in The New Balance Collegiate Invitational at The Armory in New York City. I felt fantastic during warmups and was determined to have a good day. I even took 2 attempts on my 5.10m - 14.0 flex pole in warmups but couldn't quite penetrate enough on it either time. But it was the biggest pole I'd ever planted outside of the meet itself. I ended up starting the meet at 5.30m/17' 4.5"on a 5m - 14.1, still the biggest pole I've ever started on but scraped the bar on the way down. I managed to clear it on my 3rd attempt, finally. I scraped the bar off on the backside all of my next 3 attempts at 5.40m/17'8.5" and was out of the meet. Nobody ended up clearing 5.40m but I don't care about that because IT WAS A COLLEGIATE MEET! I was embarrassed to say the least that I got 4th place in a college meet. The most frustrating part was feeling great at take-off every jump and still coming up short each time. I talked with my coach after the meet and we watched some film. We determined that it was my lack of "rowing" throughout the middle part of my jump that doesn't allow the pole to roll over into the pit like it should. The goal is to take-off tall and fast, while pushing the hands up in order to get the pole to bend correctly and create the elastic energy you need to perform a good vault. After you stretch through the take-off, you have to push your arms forward all the way to your hips while also swinging your legs in order to get upside down. Obviously it's not something easy to explain, especially in words on the world wide web, but this is at least my simplified version of vaulting. Once you do those essential steps, vaulting is easy. I just can't seem to do those few things in the same jump. I was taking off much better this meet, but then wasn't using my arms during the middle of the vault, which rolls the pole over into the pit if you do it in the right order. This created a loss of energy in the middle of my jump causing me to be thrown straight up in the air to fall straight back down on the backside of the bar. I made a short video of my last attempt at 5.40m where I slowed down the video so you can see the portion of my jump where I was not using my arms at all.

Yes, it's hard to see in the video but the bar does bounce off because my right nipple hit it. My mission this weekend is to improve on both aspects and jump like I was born to jump. I'm tellin you... if I can figure out how to do both of these things in the same jump on a big pole, it's going to blow your mind. I'm going to clear some big bars this year and I'm thinking they are going to come sooner rather than later. Oh and one last thing... I was just invited to represent the U.S. at a meet in Toyota City, Japan on March 3rd. Dreams are coming true after all!! Keep believing in me and we'll go far together! Thanks for reading my friend, My next competition is at the Tyson Invitational at The University of Arkansas. I'm actually on the KU Team bus right now on my way. I'll let you know how it goes! It also might be televised so I'll be sure to update you with details if it is. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

5.37m at the Pole Vault Summit...

Height: 5.37m or 17' 7.25"
Approach: 18 steps
Pole: 5m - 14.5
Place: 3rd

Boy did I get dominated by Brad Walker... haha. That was such a fun competition last night though! Nine of the country's best vaulters competing in front of 1500 pole vault fanatics... you just can't beat that. The energy in the arena was unreal and it got LOUD. My jumping didn't amount to the hype I tried to create on my last post, but man am I close to doing some big things! I opened up at 5.22m/17'1.5" and blew over it on the first attempt. Then I cleared 5.37m/17'7.25" on my first attempt but almost brushed it on the way down. Luckily I didn't touch it very hard and it stayed up, because the height was definitely there. Then the bar goes to 5.52m/18'1.25" and I started doing things a little too good... I started running faster than I ever have. They had "timing gates" that measured our velocity at the last 10 meters from take-off on every jump. I'm not sure how accurate they are so I'll refrain from telling you the speed they recorded until I get a further in-depth analysis from our biomechanist later today. But I was smokin! My legs can vouch for that fact today as they are extremely tired and sore. So I missed all three of my attempts at 5.52m and that was that. I ended up with 3rd place again this year and not nearly as high as I wanted, but that's all a part of the game. My time will come and I must be patient with the bars and urgent with my training and skill. Brad had an amazing night last night from my perspective. He cleared 5.80m/19'0.25" by a foot but didn't quite get 5.91m/19'4.75". He knows he could've had that bar with any of his other jumps but it just didn't happen last night. He's looking really good and I couldn't be more excited to get to jump with him and have him bring me up to his level. It is amazing for American pole vaulting what he did last night. To open up the season in January with 5.80m is impressive to say the least, but its a big year for everyone this year with the Olympics coming up and him jumping so well is only going to bring the rest of us up with him! I'm so stoked for the future of American vaulting and my own career as well. I have big goals for this season and I hope you all get to watch me accomplish them ;) Onward and Upward!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life At The UCS Spirit Reno Pole Vault Summit

This is only my 3rd time (2nd as an elite) at the UCS Spirit Reno Pole Vault Summit, and i just can't see how it can get better, but it does every year!! If you love the pole vault and you've never been out here, get your butt in gear and plan on it for next year because it is truly a unique experience. Last year when I arrived, hardly any kids and high schoolers knew who I was. Only some of the major fans of the sport and the local midwest kids. And then after the competition where I got 3rd place at 5.50m/18' 0.5" with a sweet hair design and a green mohawk, everyone wanted my autograph and suddenly I realized that I belonged in this sport as a professional. This year when I arrived... people knew who I was. That was the coolest feeling in the world. I was even signing autographs and talking to groups of kids and fans at the airport on the way out here! This event is the single most inspiring and motivational event in the world for an emerging elite athlete, someone who can vault higher than most collegiate vaulters, yet not quite competitive enough to keep up with the best in the world at most competitions. Being around all of these younger vaulters who look up to us and want autographs is inspiring in itself, and then to also be around world champions, olympic champions, world record holders, and everyone in between is just plain sobering. The whole weekend the discussion among the elites is to raise expectations and stop shooting for 5.72m or 5.80... We need to be shooting for 5.90m and 6.00m and higher. Just getting 5.72 and qualifying for the Olympics isn't going to get us a medal or even in the top 8 most likely. The trend has been that the Olympic Champion usually has to clear a new Olympic Record to win. I'm all for raising expectations and I don't think I've ever had a problem with mine being too low, as my goals are constantly to be the best vaulter in the world. Of course I want 5.72m, but as Brad Walker put it, it should just be a stepping stone in the journey to be the best. And that's where my head's at. I'm physically able to be the best pole vaulter in the world right now, at this very moment. There is nothing I NEED to do differently, training wise. I just need to vault higher, because that's the bottom line. Grow a pair, get on bigger poles, run faster, plant higher, and clear the freakin monster bars like I was made to do. I plan on starting that strategy tonight and I'm more than excited to jump with all of these elite guys tonight in front of the best pole vault fans in the world. And just because I admire the guy and hope that I can compete on his level soon, I'll say one last thing....... Bring it on Brad Walker. I don't know about the other guys, but I want to go head-to-head. Let's dance!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012 Pole Vault Summit Intro Video

Here's my video for the 2012 Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada that takes place next weekend (January 20-21). I had some help from my friend, Micah Brown in shooting the beginning footage, and I edited it. He did an awesome job shooting some quality stuff that I could work with, so thanks Micah! Hope all of you like it, and I hope I see you next week! All of the elite vaulters' videos will be posted on the Pole Vault Summit - Preparing for the Summit page. Check em all out!

Friday, January 13, 2012

5.41m - 17' 9" at Wichita State

Height: 5.41m or 17' 9"
Approach: 18 steps
Pole: 5m - 14.1
Place: 2nd

This week was WAYYY better than last week... I gotta admit, I was a little worried about my performance last weekend, but I feel much better after jumping 14 inches higher yesterday. It was my first meet from my long run (18 steps) and I got on the biggest pole I've ever gotten on indoors - 5m - 13.7 (205lb). I jumped my PR of 5.71m/18'8.75 on that pole, as well as 5.70m/18'8.25" this past summer. So basically it's my money pole. I jumped on it confidently, which was a great accomplishment for me, mentally. This year has been great so far in all aspects, and it's only 2 meets old! I opened up the meet on Thursday at 5.06m/16'7.25" and cleared it first attempt, then cleared 5.21m/17'1" on either my first or second attempt, I forgot, ha. Jack Whitt opened up at this height and cleared it with ease. The bar then raised to 5.31m/17'5" and Jack passed. I cleared it on my first attempt I believe. Next, we go to 5.41m/17'9" and I cleared it either first or second... I need to write this stuff down right away, my memory is just sad... Anyway, Jack and I both clear it and we move to 5.51m/18'1" to attempt a new facility and meet record. It is also an important bar for me as 5.50m/18'0.5" is the qualifying bar for the US Indoor Championships in February. I'm still ahead of Jack at this point of the meet and I'm up first. I blew right through my 5m - 14.1 and grabbed my 13.7 for the next jump. Jack misses... I take my 2nd attempt and barrrrely nicked the bar on the backside and it falls as I hit the mats. Jack misses again, too. This is it, my last jump of the competition unless I step it up and clean up my jump. I bolt down the runway and do the exact same thing... Hit the bar with my chest on my descent. And Jack comes down and cleared it smoothly for the win. Oh well, I guess I won't have an undefeated season, haha. I was extremely happy for my progress, especially in less than a week. My first practice at my long run was on Tuesday but yesterday felt like I never stopped for an off-season. It was fantastic. And I got on massive poles and had plenty of height over 5.51m, which is great this early in the year, with my rough, early-season technique. Jack put together a great video of us jumping yesterday which I will put at the bottom of this post. I can't wait for the Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada next week! I hope all of you are either going this year, or have a chance to go at least once in your life. It's an incredible event with more pole vaulting energy than anywhere else in the world. I vault next Friday, I believe. I worked all day today on an intro video of myself that the Summit asked all of the elite vaulters to do for them. I'm no video-editor, but I think it turned out pretty sweet! I'll post it on here after it gets posted on the UCS Spirit Pole Vault Summit website.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

First Meet Of 2012 In The Books

Height: 5.05m or 16' 6.75"
Approach: 14 steps
Pole: 5m - 15.3
Place: 1st

Boy was that a hell of a first meet... It was completely not how I pictured it in my head, even after warmups, which went very well. I opened up at 5.05m and blew through on my first attempt. I went up a pole and sailed over it on my second attempt. Boom, first bar of 2012 and a long road ahead... Well when I went to the next bar of 5.20m or 17', the 5m - 15.3 pole that I had just used felt extremely soft and didn't give me anything in return. I brushed the bar off on the way down and was very confused that I might have not moved the pole like I should've. My take-off and positions were great except I wasn't clearing the bar. I was really confused and so was coach, but we decided to go UP a pole and see what happens. We moved the standards in a little and went up to my 5m - 14.9 and I blew through it. Just as we suspected, the 15.3 was too soft so it was over-bending and "shooting" me straight up and straight back down. So by going up to the next pole, we eliminated the over-bend and just about cleared the bar by a foot. Instead, I brushed it on the way up and there goes my second attempt at the scrawny 17' bar. We decided to take the last jump with the standards as far back as they would go and I still hit it coming out up top. Which means either the pole was giving me nothing or I was flagging out really bad/kicking out at the bar. I don't feel like I was kicking out that bad but the whole meet was so weird that who knows, I definitely could've been. Long story short, I had a jump-off with one of the vaulters on the KU team that I've trained with for the past year and a half, Alex Bishop. We were tied at 17' so we each got another crack at it. We both missed the bar on our fourth attempt so it was lowered 5 centimeters, due to the "jump-off, no-tie for 1st place rule"... We missed again, it dropped 5cm lower... and we missed again... and one more time... and then finally I made 5m or 16' 4.75" and he missed. We were exhausted and both pretty upset with ourselves for not doing any better than that during the jump-off. But I came out with the win and that's really all I wanted to say for this entire blog post is that I won. It's pretty embarrassing to have to tell you that I jumped 5.05m at any point during an Olympic year at the age of 23, but it happened and I must move on. Hopefully you still have faith in me because I feel that good things are coming. First, I need to adjust to my recent weight gain of 8 pounds and speed I have acquired over the last 3 months. I have been hitting the weight room hard and eating right and taking a whey protein supplement in order to help gain some muscle mass. I did just that and now I weigh a consistent 184 lbs, which is a big difference on a pole. We'll just have to see how this indoor season goes! Wish me luck! I'm hoping to jump at K-State next week from a long run to prepare for the Reno Pole Vault Summit. I hope it goes a little (a lot) better!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All I Wanna Do Is Sleep

Sleep is so unbelievable important in my sport. Sometimes I take for granted the opportunities I have in front of me and the amount of time I have to get a good night's sleep. Of course I celebrated New Year's Eve with some champaign and not going to bed until 1am or so, but I figured waking up after 10am like I did would've given me the amount of rest I needed to stay on track. Wrong. At times like these, when I'm at work (bored) and had a ridiculously hard time getting out of bed, I remember how important it is to stay on a sleeping schedule. My body definitely needs one nowadays. I mean, by no means am I old, but I used to be able to sleep just a few hours a night and train just fine, but it wasn't until I found the value of sleep when my training capacity increased by leaps and bounds. Sunday night I got about 8 hours of sleep and last night I got 7... it may seem like a normal, if not substantial amount of sleep for you, but my body needs more than that to function at 100%. I need at least 8-9 hours of sleep to feel rested and ready to take on the world. Today is a vaulting day and I absolutely, with all my might, disgustingly HATE not feeling 100% on a vault day. I'm pretty upset with myself for not getting enough rest lately because having good vault sessions is key to one's confidence on a pole. I need these vault sessions to count, especially since we only vault twice a week. Over the holidays I couldn't vault for a week and a half and I've only had two vault sessions in the past 3 weeks! I like to take full advantage of ALL of my few vaulting opportunities. Advice to all: If you want to be successful, treat your body like the machine that it is... There is no excuse for not fueling and refueling and maintaining it as a finely-tuned piece of equipment. It's the only one you'll have so keep it running smoothly!
I failed at this for most of my life, so don't make the same mistakes I have!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Tentative Competition Schedule

Happy New Year loyal fan! This year is going to be the best year in my pole vaulting career. I hope all of you are as excited as I am about everything this year has in store. Training has been going really well the last few weeks and I'm excited to compete this weekend! My first meet is this coming Saturday, January 7th here in Lawrence, Kansas at our newly re-surfaced facility. I was out of town from the 20th through the 27th to visit my family in Georgia. It was a great holiday and I always realize how much I miss them when I visit. Julia spent the holidays with her family here in Kansas this year and had a great time with her sisters. After I got back in town last Tuesday, I worked out the travel day on Wednesday and had a great vault session on Thursday. It was the best vault practice from 14 steps I've had so far this year. Coach and I were very pleased about it, as I was finally able to get a fluid, powerful take-off from 14 steps and moved through quite a few bigger poles. I ended up on a 5m - 15.3 flex pole, gripping 4.75m, and getting over a bungee at 5.50m. It was a good rhythmic practice and I felt really solid on my run. I still have a brazillion things I wanna work on so I'm definitely not satisfied, but things are definitely headed in the right direction! So as I was saying, my first competition is in 6 days from now and I am really excited. I'm not expecting much since it is the first meet of the indoor season, but as every athlete, we're always anxious, nervous, and excited about our first meets. Are we gonna set a high standard from the get-go and send our confidence up on a rocket? Or are we going to realize how much work we still have to do to prepare for the rest of the season? It's always a toss-up, but I feel pretty confident about being more consistent this season. I feel like now I have the experience of a veteran athlete in the professional vaulting scene, at least on a domestic level. Vaulting overseas is still an unforeseen adventure waiting on me, but I'm confident I can take on any competition on any level in this country. I have a few meets on my schedule at the moment and I wanted to share them with you. Nothing is set in stone and things could change entirely, but as of now, here is my plan for meets for the indoor season:

January 7 - Home Meet @ KU
January 20,21 - Pole Vault Summit @ Reno, Nevada
January 27 - Jayhawk Invitational @ KU
February 3,4 - New Balance Collegiate Invitational @ New York, New York
February 10,11 - Tyson Invitational @ University of Arkansas
February 25,26 - US Indoor Championships @ Albuquerque, New Mexico
March 9-11 - Indoor World Championships @ Istanbul, Turkey

Wish me luck this weekend! I think I'll be jumping from 14 steps still but moving back to 18 steps is a possibility. I'll be sure to post a meet update after the competition. I hope all of you athletes set some high goals for 2012. Always aim high, but stay in touch with reality. I've always set abnormally high goals, but how else are you going to achieve true greatness if you aren't always striving for something that no one else dares to think you can achieve. Do your best and never settle. Have a wonderful New Year and go get your goals!!