AUSTINTOWN — Out of all of the track and field events one could make a solid argument that pole vault remains one of the most daunting and difficult sports to compete in.
Just the thought of volunteering to make a quick dash with a heavy pole, plant it, and clear a bar while flying toward the crash pad might scare some people, but for Howland senior Saylor Biggin, that fear never existed to begin with.
“My vice principal (Michael Pollifrone), he recruited me because I was a gymnast in my freshman year, and I actually caught on really fast, so then I just continued to do it,” said Biggin, who integrates her gymnastics background with her event. “A lot of the form you have to do, the going upside down, the way you have to get there, the turning. It’s a lot less scary than gymnastics.”
Biggin cleared a 9-08 height Friday evening at Austintown Fitch in the Division I district meet to punch a ticket to the regional round after tying with Falcons freshman Meghan Vadas. The mark of 9-08 was a full foot higher than the third and fourth place finishers.
“It’s pretty hard, especially in the wind, it’s all about consistency and form.” Biggin said. “I need to get my steps under control, they’re a little weird today. I was either getting too far under or too far out.”
Like many of the field events, like discus or long jump, there’s plenty of technique involved to become a skillful vaulter. It’s an event where one misstep or little body movement could be the deal breaker between clearing the bar or crashing into it.
When it comes down to it, it’s a game of inches sometimes, but Biggin has plenty of parallels between what’s needed to succeed in both pole vault and gymnastics.
That’s where jumps and vault coach Jordan Fronzaglio steps in, as a former jumper himself, it’s about trying to hammer down some of the little details throughout a season.
“There is the aspect of form and things like that, where as if running, if you’re fast, you’re fast, if you’re not you can maybe fix your form, with pole vault, it’s a lot of technique,” Fronzaglio said. “As long as you know the technique, it’s like, hey you didn’t do this, or you didn’t do that, and they’re like, hey, okay, I got it and it’s fixed for the most part.
“It’s even down to just the position of your body while you’re in the air, maybe where you take off from, how quickly you swing your feet up, things like that. There’s so many aspects of form that can go wrong with a single vault, but for the most part I’m lucky to have Saylor who’ll very rarely have something that’s majorly wrong, it’s just a matter of steps on a windy day like this.”
This will be back-to-back trips to regionals for Biggin, but over the winter she qualified and competed in the indoor state meet, an experience that opened her eyes to what competition actually lies out there.
“It taught me how many good vaulters there are in our region and our state. Ohio is one of the biggest for pole vaulting for girls height wise,” Biggin said. “A lot of believing in yourself, I like the competition. Around here, we don’t have that much competition. I’m normally the last one standing, so when there’s someone still in there with me, it pushes me a lot harder than being the only one left.”
Biggin also owns the school record in the event, her personal record height is 10-06, crediting extra training indoors out of season with some of the area’s best to allow her to push her PR higher and higher.
Fronzaglio didn’t vault himself, but has extensively studied the event after competing in long jump and sprinting events during his track career.
At a stadium like Fitch, he’s able to coach both his vaulters and jumpers at the same time with both stations placed next to each other near the south end zone.
“That’s something I tell all my vaulters, it’s funny how similar they are in terms of the run through take off and how important it is,” Fronzaglio explained. “The basic aspects of keeping your chest up on takeoff and bringing your hips through and things like that, they’re all so similar.”
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox