Like a pitcher in baseball, a pole vaulter has only so many jumps in him during a meet before fatigue begins to set in, making it more and more difficult to soar over the bar as the height increases.
The key for pole vaulters is to find the ideal height to enter the competition. Enter too early, risk fatiguing at the end. Enter too late, risk not clearing the initial height at all and falling into last place with the dreaded NH, or no height.
“The less amount of jumps you have to do in a competition, the stronger you will be in those jumps,” said Riverhead coach Sal Loverde. “The more jumps you have to do, the more your physical ability becomes spent.”
At Saturday’s New York State Championships in Ithaca, Riverhead pole vaulters Dan Normoyle and Jonah Spaeth entered with lofty goals in pursuit of the top spot on the podium. The two seniors have routinely cleared 14 feet this season, giving them the confidence to wait until the bar already reached a high height before entering the competition.
Normoyle began at 13 feet 6 inches, a height 12 out of the 26 vaulters failed to reach. When it was over, he had soared over 14-06, landing him fifth among public school competitors for a spot on the podium. It was his first all-state finish. He was sixth overall in the federation, which includes all schools in the state.
Spaeth cleared 14-0 to narrowly miss a spot on the podium. He entered the competition at 13-0.
“Both Dan and Jonah had very respectable performances and should be very proud of themselves,” Loverde said.
James Steck, a senior from Shaker, won the competition by clearing 15-0. Two vaulters cleared 14-09.
“It was a very tightly packed field,” Loverde said. “It could have went either way.”
Loverde said both vaulters hoped to go as deep into the competition as possible.
“It’s a finicky event,” he said. “It’s a lot like relief pitching. But they went up there and they were well prepared and they achieved at a high level. It could have went either way. A little slip on the way down here or there and Jonah or Normoyle could have won it. But that’s the nature of the pole vault.”
Monday marked the first official spring practice and the two vaulters wasted little time getting right back out there. Along with junior Charles Villa, who narrowly missed earning a spot at states, the trio pulled out the mats for their first outdoor practice.
Coming off their success in the winter, there’s no telling what the trio can achieve in the spring, where vaulters typically jump higher.
And when dual meets begin, the Blue Waves can just about mark down a sweep in the pole vault for every meet.
Loverde said a more consistent practice schedule in the spring tends to allow vaulters to reach greater heights.
“The mere fact that they get more time in the actual vaulting setting helps to promote the opportunity for a greater height,” he said. “We got some really ridiculous potential for this spring.”
Before the winter season officially reaches the end, Riverhead’s three vaulters will compete at the New Balance Indoor Nationals at The Armory in New York. The three-day competition begins Friday.
“It’s the race to 15 now,” Loverde said. “Who’s going to be the first one over 15?”
They’ll get another chance Friday.