Oregon State gymnasts say they favor safer vault
By KEVIN HAMPTON
When Oregon State gymnastics assistant coach Michael Chaplin heard that the vaulting horse was going to be replaced, he posted a few photos of the new apparatus on a white board near the start of the practice gym's vault runway.
The paper was soon surrounded with comments scrawled by the gymnasts, such as "Coming to a gym near you."
The team was ready for the change. The horse not only made it difficult to execute some vaults, but a slip of the hands could result in a crash landing.
Chaplin, who coaches the event, said that safety issues sparked the change. The new horse, which Chaplin describes as a table, has a wider and longer surface, giving the gymnasts plenty of room to plant their hands.
"Historically, I believe, a lot of the European countries would practice vault on something similar to that," Chaplin said. "I think the idea came from that. I have seen videotapes of European kids vaulting on something pretty similar to this years ago."
One of the main concerns was for gymnasts who use Yurchenko vaults, which require a round-off entry in which the athlete is headed backwards when the hands make contact with the horse.
OSU sophomore Daylee Ingalls said she likes the table better because she uses the Yurchenko. Ingalls has scored two 9.85s and a 9.80 on the event this year.
"There's more room where you can place your hands and not have to go to the same place every time like the old vault. You'd have to be perfect every time, getting your hands in the same place every time," Ingalls said. "This one, you have a little more leeway and if your hands aren't exactly where they were before, you can still pull out your vault. You can still have enough power to get off of it and twist or flip or whatever you need to do.
"I feel a lot more comfortable and that I can do more things, that I could learn more skills because of it."
While the other events can take more than a minute to complete, the vault is done in around 10 or 12 seconds. The gymnasts charge down the runway, launch themselves off the springboard and over the horse, into their twists and flips to the landing.
It requires power and speed to perform correctly, and the Beavers train about twice a week on the event, alternating with floor to keep the pounding on their legs to a minimum.
Chaplin has the gymnasts complete 6 to 12 vaults during a practice and then uses drills on the floor to simulate the movements used on the event. The team also uses the trampoline to work on spatial awareness drills and does sprint work.
"We do a lot of working up to our competitive vault, like timers, (which are) like a lower level vault just to get your body ready for the skills that you want to work on," Ingalls said. "Just working on landings and being real tight for competition."
Although Angela Morales is a freshman at OSU, she actually has more experience with the new vault than her teammates because the vault was used at the club level last year. She finished fourth at the 2000 and 2001 Junior Olympic national meet on the event and won vault in the Arizona meet with a 9.90.
Morales said the using the new apparatus was an easy transition for her because it provides a bigger target.
"At first it took me at least a week to get used to it, but once I got it down and my timing, it was way easier and my landing was way better and farther away from the horse," she said.
Morales uses a handspring front pike with a half, which keeps her moving forward.
"So you see the horse the whole time and then you flip and then you see the landing the whole time," she said. "So it's not like you lose sight of it at all, unlike the Yurchenko, where it is a blind approach. So that's why it was more difficult for the Yurchenkos more so than the front handspring people."
Chaplin said he feels more relaxed now when he spots the vaulters, while he used to be hunched over, intensely watching and ready to grab them before they crash. Now he is ready, but a little more calm when the gymnasts
spring into their vaults.
"I think it came to be that this table is more for safety issues and I think it's good," Chaplin said. "I'm pleased with it and I think our athletes have made a good adjustment to the table."nd 0.0 points and 1.6 rebounds in six conference appearances.
The Beavers can even their Pac-10 record at 4-4 with a victory Saturday and with another win against Washington State - which has lost 38 consecutive games - at Pullman on Jan. 23.
"Yeah, and that record looks a little bit better than 1-4, which is how we started,'' Chaney said. "We just have to take it game-by-game and keep building on it."