The key moment in the development of a pole vaulter may well be at the very beginning. Can the athlete survive the first awkward attempts and develop quickly enough to not get discouraged and give up for a less dangerous event?
East Linn Christian Academy senior Matthew Reardon remembers his first attempts in the pole vault during his freshman year.
“For me, my first two weeks I think I was the worst pole vaulter ever. I almost quit for a while because I was so terrible,” Reardon said. “My first two attempts, I went straight up, hung there for a second and came right down into the mud.”
ELCA coach Kellen Peters confirmed that it was a slow start for Reardon.
“I remember … when he was ecstatic to get over the bar at 7 feet,” Peters said.
It didn’t take long for Reardon to show substantial progress. By the end of his freshman year, he had set the class record for ELCA, clearing 9 feet, 9 inches.
“It was really exciting seeing progress as I went along. It made me want to keep going,” Reardon said.
As a sophomore, he pushed his best mark up to 11-6, also a class record at ELCA. Reardon was sick for much of his junior year and didn’t make the gains he was expecting. Still, he set that class mark as well, at 12 feet.
This year, he is once again pushing his personal best upward. At the Regis meet in Stayton he finally claimed the best mark in ELCA history, clearing 13 feet.
“The meet was over pretty much and the whole team was there cheering him on. It was pretty cool to watch,” Peters said.
Reardon matched that mark on Friday at the Rob Allen Twilight Invitational. Reardon said he cleared the bar with more cleanly than he had in Stayton.
Reardon is currently tied for the second-best mark in 2A this season. Bryan Ayala of Lost River has also cleared 13 feet, while Jerry Patzke of Lakeview has the top mark at 13-4.
It will likely take a height of at least 13-6 and more likely 14 feet to win state.
To do that, Reardon is moving up to a longer pole. He is currently using a 13-foot pole but has been practicing on a 14-footer. This is process Reardon has endured before, but it isn’t easy. Breaking in a new pole takes a new dose of courage.
“You never know if it’s going to shoot you in the right direction,” Reardon said.
The Eagles will compete at the 2A Special District 2 Championships on Friday and Saturday at Kennedy High School in Mt. Angel.
Reardon will compete in the pole vault, javelin and triple jump. During Friday’s meet he had to run back and forth across the field to compete in the javelin, which was contested at the same time as the pole vault.
“It’s kind of nice because they have it over two days (at the district meet), so a lot of times it takes care of those problems,” Reardon said.
He has improved in the javelin and set a new personal record at the Regis meet with a throw off 155-7. That is the fourth-best throw in the district this season and a top-10 throw in the 2A classification.
Still, his main hopes reside in the pole vault and Reardon knows what he has to do to be successful.
“For me, it’s all in the plant and in the finish. It’s hard to keep your body vertical, upside down. You want to keep your feet right above you, which takes a lot of core strength,” Reardon said.
Peters hopes to see four years of hard work rewarded.
“Hopefully he can do what he needs to do and win district,” Peters said. “Going to state, I think he’s going to do well. He’s prepared and he’s going to know what to expect going into the meet.”