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Vaulting forward: East Ridge sophomore reaches new heights

Sophomore Alec Wittman has become one of the state’s best young pole vaulters this season. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia

Most spectators likely don't realize all of the techniques involved in pole vaulting.

Seeing the athletes fly through the air on a flexed pole over the bar can demonstrate what it looks like when hard work pays off.

This dedication has helped East Ridge sophomore Alec Wittman become one of the top young pole vaulters in the state this season.

Just two years ago, Wittman decided to try pole vaulting after watching his older sister, Morgan Wittman, perform the sport.

After trying it firsthand, Wittman was hooked.

"This is really fun," he recalled. "Clearing the bar is just amazing."

Now that he is a sophomore, Wittman's work in pole vaulting has started to pay off. His personal record of 13-feet, 6-inches puts him on the track and field website raceberryjam.com's list of top pole vault marks in the state this season.

Wittman has credited his improvement on offseason work he did during a camp at Concordia University in St. Paul, which helped him set a personal record in his first meet of the season.

"Over the winter I did a camp at Concordia," Wittman said. "It really prepped me for this season. While a lot of the other guys were sitting at home watching the Super Bowl, or something, I was practicing."

East Ridge coach Mark Haesly has been working with high school pole vaulters for 35 years. The veteran coach said Wittman possesses both the physical tools, including speed and work ethic that should help him continue to grow as a pole vaulter over the next two years.

"That's what you want," Haesly said about Wittman's speed. "They say, 'run fast, vault high; run slow, vault low.' Another thing is he is so fearless. He will listen to me. He is so coachable. Very modest, very humble. If I ask him to get on a bigger pole, he asks no questions. He gets on the pole."

Wittman hopes he can extend his season by qualifying for the Class 2A state track and field meet. A good performance should give him a shot, as the state meet automatic qualifying mark is 13-feet, 10-inches. He took a run at that mark a few times during the Suburban East Conference sophomore and under meet Wednesday, May 17, at White Bear Lake High School but came up just short.

"State is the goal," Wittman said. "And then maybe 13-10. That would be nice."

Wittman's sister, Morgan, holds the school's girls pole vault record at 10-feet, 8-inches. Someday, Wittman hopes to put his name on the East Ridge boys record.

"My sister holds the record for the school," Wittman said. "So I'm just like, 'Wouldn't it be cool to have brother and sister record holders?'"

Pole vaulting is one of the most technical events in track and field, requiring the speed to get you going and the strength to hoist your body into the air. But when it all goes well, Wittman said there is no other feeling quite like successfully clearing a bar.

"It's always like slo-mo," Wittman said. "Whenever it's a great vault, everything just goes really slow."

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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