ASU pole vaulters bring a unique energy to the runway

Pole vaulters on the ASU track and field team approach the sport with a different energy than their competition

When thinking of track and field people often think of running and throwing, and for some reason jumpers are often overlooked.

The ASU men’s pole vaulters are looking to change that.

When asked to describe the average practice, redshirt senior Garrett Starkey painted an interesting picture.

“We blast music as loud as we can for practice and yell as loud as we can for everything,” Starkey said.

Redshirt sophomore Matthew Eckles elaborated on Starkey’s point.

“Lots of enthusiasm in everything we do,” Eckles said. “We like to get each other amped up, because that’s the best way you can really vault well, get each other amped up and hyped up.”

Redshirt senior Jacob Flores tried to explain the reasoning of why the pole vaulters get so energetic at practice.

“We’re yelling at each other, getting each other amped up because we know that we’re all going to make that big jump,” Flores said. "We just have to get pushed to the next level in order to do it.”

Starkey said that this energy and enthusiasm is exactly what the ASU pole vaulting squad is known for.

Senior Dillon Groener said the Sun Devil men’s pole vaulters have earned a unique reputation around the NCAA.

“If there’s one thing that people remember us by, we’re a good group of vaulters,” Groener said. “But we always come correct with that energy.”

When talking about what it takes to make the jump, the vaulters said they use a single mantra: "send it."

“Just when there’s something in your way,” Starkey said. “And you just gotta conquer it, you just sit there and you think, ‘I’m just going to send it man’.”

Starkey definitely sent it at the 38 Sun Angel Classic when he vaulted into the number two spot in the ASU pole vaulting record books.

Eckles said he has a theory as to why the athletes are so close. He admits that while they are a very different group of people, pole vaulting has really brought them all together.

“We are all from Arizona expect for Dillion, but Dillion blended in well,” Eckles said. “I just knew it was going to be a really good group of guys that were going to train hard, have a lot of fun, and bring big results to the track program.”

Although the vaulters do not live together, they spend a lot of time together off the track.

“We live at the track and hang out in the locker room a lot,” Flores said. “... (We) go over to everyone else’s house and eat food, we hang out a lot.”

The vaulters said some of their favorite things to do off the track are sending each other memes and chowing down at restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen, Cafe Rio, Olive Garden and Oregano's.

But behind the jokes, food and energy at practice, the pole vaulters said they really care for one another.

“I don’t want anything more than to see these guys succeed,” Groener said. “There’s not anything I’d rather see.”

Groener said he will be there for his teammates in their darkest time, and also the first to congratulate them whenever they achieve something.

Even though these Sun Devils care for each other, they are still competitive at practice.

“We’re all very competitive of each other, but at the same time we are each other’s biggest fans,” Starkey said. “So, if I can’t succeed, then seeing my teammates is the next best thing.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the vaulters were very confident about how they will perform when it comes to the Pac-12 Conference Championship on May 14.

This confidence stems from how the vaulters preformed at the indoor conference championship.

“We did a pretty good job at the indoor conference (meet) and we’re looking to do the same again (at the outdoor conference meet),” Eckles said. “We’re just going to take it as far as we can and just chase the dream.”

Starkey shared Eckles’ goals for the team and shined a light on the contribution that he expected the pole vaulters to make.

“The goal for the future of the season is to put up as many points as a team as possible at Pac-12’s,” Starkey said. “I think we (the pole vaulters) can put up the most points out of this whole team. I think we can do it.”

Groener, however, was a little more optimistic when it came to his expectations for the rest of the season.

“Garrett’s (Starkey) winning Pac-12’s, he’s going to be a champion,” Groener said. “He’s put in the work, it’s his turn.”

Time will tell whether Starkey and the rest of the team will reach their goals for the season, but one thing is clear, this is a group of pole vaulters unlike any other.

“...These guys support me in everything I do, off the track, on the track, everything,” Groener said.


Reach the reporter at jzaklis@gmail.com and follow @JoshZaklis on Twitter.

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