Vaulting for state
The result was that Cliver, instead of going over the bar, dropped straight back down onto the runway.
The Huskies’ Allison Myers had an equally painful experience her freshman year. She was working on planting her pole against the wall in the gym. She accidentally let go of the top of the pole, sending herself into the wall.
“I don’t do wall plants anymore,” Myers joked. “I had rainbow bruises up and down my arms.”
These anecdotes provide a laugh, but they also show some of the qualities that good pole valuters like Cliver and Myers have to have – speed, strength, resilience and courage.
“The thing about a vaulter is that he or she’s got to be a well-rounded athlete,” Huskies vaulting coach Charlie Alexander said. “You’ve got to be a sprinter. You’ve got to be strong like a gymnast. You’ve got to have the leg strength and abilities of a hurdler – the consistency of his stride, things of that nature. So he or she is an all-around athlete.”
That would certainly be the case for Cliver and Myers. Cliver has soccer, football and basketball on his resume. Myers has lettered in volleyball. Both also are high jumpers and have state track experience. Cliver was fifth in the state last year, while Myers was a state contender before she rolled her ankle at warmups at the state meet. Myers already holds the school record for girls pole vault at nine feet.
Alexander wants Cliver and Myers, and the rest of the vaulting team for that matter, to think of themselves as human springs. Build up your speed and explode upward through the plant.
“You’ve got to think of it as a giant spring. We’re taking our horizontal speed down the runway and turning it into vertical speed going up,” Alexander said. “It’s a giant spring. If I take off at 12 feet out, I’ve got to compress that spring and I’ve got to get on top of that spring and let spring push me up over the bar.”
What seems like an unnatural process becomes seamless through repetition. With experience, vaulters like Cliver and Myers race down the runway, planting while still looking ahead, automatically anticipating feeling the pole bend, shooting them up and away.
The duo, as most vaulters on the Western Slope do, started vaulting in high school.
“It’s kind of like flying,” Cliver said. “At first, you lose your stomach and then you’ll get used to it. I’m just thinking technique. Once I’m planted, I know things are going well and I reach for the sky with my feet.”
Cliver is following his brother, Ben, in the sport. Jared’s best is 13 feet in competition and 13-6 in practice. That 13-footer at state last year put Cliver within a foot of 4A’s top three vaulters and is well ahead of the 11-6 needed to qualify for state this year.
“Jared’s a great athlete. Jared’s got a lot of ability to know where he is when he’s upside down. That’s really important to be able to do,” Alexander said. “A lot of kids get on that pole and they bend it, but it throws them out instead of up. Jared has the ability to go up. Jared’s got a great run. He’s a tall kid – 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. He’s kind of the perfect build for an athlete.”
Meanwhile, Myers seems intent on rewriting the Huskies’ record book. She matched her school record of nine feet at the Eagle Valley Invitational last week.
“I’d like to put (the record) away for a while,” Myers said. “I personally feel that I could win state. I’d like to make double-digits. Ten feet is not that far. My goal is 11. I’m probably setting my goal a little high, but I’d rather set it high than low.”
Both will have their work cut out for them. Cliver is using a new, longer pole with an eye toward making the 13- to 14-foot range. Myers is focusing on her technique in the next month to prepare for state.
Whatever the result of the season, the duo will continue to experience something unique in the world of sports.
“Coming down the runway, you know you’re getting ready to have a big thrill,” Alexander said. “When you bend that pole and you rock back and it throws you up in the air, it’s an adrenaline rush that most people don’t get a chance to experience until they’ve mastered it.”