Vaulters show growth through adverse times

Bobby Scott, Editor-In-Chief

Pitt-Johnstown track and field team pole-vaulters may not have ideal training opportunities on campus, but that has not prevented them from contending in every tournament.

Since moving practice outdoors the first day back from spring break, the vaulters have had the opportunity to prepare better.

“It is so much better to practice outside because (the pole-vaulters) finally have a place to jump even though we don’t have the proper poles,” freshman pole-vaulter David Gontis said.

Gontis said that they focus practice time on planting their poles properly and their approach to the jump.

On March 28, both the men and women’s teams competed in the Towson (Md.) University Invitational, the spring’s first meet for each team.

The Mountain Cats finished fifth of eight teams and led by an individual standout performance by freshman pole-vaulter David Simmons.

He took first place in the pole vault (albeit, out of four student-athletes) and also finished fifth in the triple jump event with a distance of 39’6 1/2”, according to pittjohnstownathletics.com.

Simmons was one of three Mountain Cats who competed in pole-vaulting and one of two who participated in the triple jump.

Second year men’s head coach Carl Keifer said that he was impressed with the way the pole-vaulters have performed given their circumstances.

“These guys (pole-vaulters) are walk-ons and were not recruited, but they wanted to pole-vault so I am very pleased with their progress,” he said.

“I think, by next year, they are going to be a lot better.”

Keifer said that it can be difficult to make the transition between high school and collegiate track and field.

“Going from high school to college is always different even if it is an event that you know very well,” he said.

“In high school, you have two teams and they basically go head-to-head. College isn’t like that. You have many teams, from different divisions going at it all at the same time.”

Keifer cited the winter affecting the team’s potential, mainly the pole-vaulters considering the team does not have a proper indoor track and field training opportunities.

Despite the adversity vaulters faced in the indoor season, they managed to contend for high finishes in the event.

“I’m happy with where the pole-vaulters are, but if we had some place to vault in the winter (we would be better),” Keifer said.

“Overall, we don’t have a place to practice in the winter, and that is something, as a new program, we have to work through.”