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Vaulting into new space?

Popular pole vaulting club enduring the summer heat as it looks for new building
By: Joshua Ansley Journal Sports Writer
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It is a common belief that the three most dangerous acts in all of sports consist of trying to hit a 90 mph fastball, racing in NASCAR, and pole vaulting. Add rain and wind to an already volatile sport like pole vaulting and the chances of injury skyrocket. That is why Gold Country Pole Vaulting is in search of a new indoor practice facility. The club’s previous location at William Jessup University is under construction. On June 20 the team was forced to relocate. The need for an indoor practice facility is essential according to Nick Vogt, Executive Director of Christian Team Ministries, the organization that oversees Gold Country Pole Vaulting (GCVP). “It’s is just too dangerous in the rain,” he said. Vogt, along with other volunteer coaches from around the area, are trying to provide a platform for high school and collegiate pole vaulters from all over the area. CTM is a religious organization put together by coaches and former athletes aiming to serve as an environment of faith and outreach while providing quality instruction. At the 2010 National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nev., in January, they were awarded the National Pole Vault Community Action Award by the USA Track and Field Olympic Committee. "It’s really great because otherwise you have to hire a personal trainer and that can be really expensive” said Leshen Lu, a senior from Oakmont High who just started coming to GCPV last year. “Gold Country Pole Vaulting has coaches who can help. We can donate, but we are not obligated.” Lu is looking to pole vault at Cornell or Cal Poly in 2011. “A lot of places are making budget cuts and pole vaulting is usually one of the first things to go,” Dan Besmer said. Besmer is a former San Jose State pole vaulter who is now coaching at West Valley College in Saratoga. He joined the organization when his son got into the sport last year. In addition to getting out of the rain, quality coaching is essential to the safety of the sport. “When people get hurt it’s usually because they either don’t have a coach or they have an inexperienced coach,” Besmer said. “It’s not really the height as much as the technique that causes problems.” While the building is a future concern, GCPV maintains enough certified coaches to provide quality training. As one of the few organizations to have multiple coaches available and poles to use, they invite any pole vaulters from around the area to join. “Pole vaulting is the single most popular track and field event in the United States,” Vogt said. That popularity has found its way to Auburn with startling success. In 2000, Auburn native Stacy Dragila won gold in the women’s pole vault at the Sydney Olympics. Former Placer star Connor Landry finished third at the CIF State Championships in 2007. Before transferring to the University of California, Landry went on to win the 2008 Big West Conference title at Cal Poly. Pole vaulting also maintains an excellent circle of connection that most other sports lack. “It is an ongoing system of support,” said Kent Rhodes, who coached Landry and several other standouts at Placer. “Pole Vaulting has a tremendous communal aspect to it,” Rhodes added. “Because poles are so expensive there is often a lot of trading and loaning that takes place between teams. We try to offer support for those that want to improve all year long.” Rhodes invites former pole vaulters from Placer, and the surrounding area, to join GCPV and continue to develop their skills. Many of his former prodigies return to train at his home during the offseason. Rhodes maintains an outdoor ramp along with other training equipment in his backyard. Dylann Swisley pole vaulted all four years at Placer, where she won the Sac-Joaquin Section title in 2009. That same year she was also the Pioneer Valley League MVP. Now a sophomore at Sacramento State, Swisley is practicing with the group this summer. With Rhodes’ training she is hoping to make even more of an impact at the collegiate level. According to Swisley, the rain is a concern. “They cancel it if it’s raining and they can see that is effecting vaulters,” she said. The trouble is that the training season officially begins in February. If the athletes are looking to head into the season fully prepared they need an indoor facility to practice during the winter months. “The goal is to have the facility by winter time to get out of the rain,” Rhodes said. According to Rhodes, the organization only needs a portion of space from a very large building. That space would include dimensions with a width of 35 feet, length of 165 feet, and a height of 22 feet. While they will consider all offers, the difficulty is finding a facility that won’t charge for more space than they need. The Gold Country Pole Vaulting Training Center that was used by the club at William Jessup fit those requirements perfectly. “Pole vaulting is a lot about ingenuity,” Rhodes said. They will need to utilize some of that ingenuity along with local support as fall approaches. “It’s going to require a group effort,”Vogt said.