Pole Vault Reaches New Heights for Biola Track and Field

Team becomes more nationally competitive with the increased focus on vault event

May. 16, 2014 By Camryn Hudson

For the second time in Biola’s history, the women’s track and field team placed first in the outdoor Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) championships with the help of women’s pole vault. Biola’s pole vault event blew away the competition last month taking the top two finishes in both men’s and women’s at the outdoor GSAC championship meet on April 26-27, 2014.


When head coach Jonathan Zimmerman arrived at Biola in 2007, the track and field team consisted of 12 athletes competing in only a few events. Seven years later, the track and field team has grown by approximately 600 percent to include more than 70 athletes competing in almost every event, including the pole vault, which has garnered six All-Americans and multiple GSAC champions in the last six years.  


“We were expecting to score big in both the men and women's vault as we have a bit of a ‘pole vault factory’ going here with great folks collaborating together,” said Zimmerman. “Everyone is looking out for each other and putting in their observations.”


In the coming years it is the vision of pole vault coach, T.J. Ellis, and Zimmerman to create a “pole vaulting mecca” at Biola, which would include updating equipment, increasing the number of pole vaulters at Biola and holding pole vault camps for young athletes in the area.


In 2007, the track team had only one male pole vaulter. Biola is now just one of two schools in Golden State Athletic Conference to have more than seven athletes competing in the pole vault. The track and field team started the 2013-2014 school year with 10 pole vault athletes.


This season, seniors Taylor McCahon, Alex Calkins and Jeff Tran, and sophomore Nicole Falkenstein have taken the pole vault world by storm. Falkenstein is a force to be reckoned with having placed fourth at the indoor nationals and first at the outdoor GSAC championships. Together these athletes have credited the team with six first place finishes at several GSAC championship meets as well as two all-Americans.


“It has been fun to see the event grow not only nationally, but on our team as well,” said McCahon.  


Pole vaulting demands immense strength, speed and agility from its athletes. As a pole vaulter, one’s body will go about 12-16 feet in the air above the ground using a fiber-glass pole to propel them, turning upside-down and falling back down onto the pit. Each day pole vaulters risk their lives and the possibility of injury to reach new heights, according to Ellis.


“You kind of have to be a little crazy to vault, you have to have one screw loose just to do it,” said Ellis.


Due to the risks involved with pole vaulting, a strong camaraderie between pole vaulters from all different schools is very common. Calkins explains how the people he has met have been his favorite part of pole vaulting.


“Pole vaulting gave me much more than the sport itself,” said Calkins. “It has given me faith and friendships that far exceed the silliness of seeing how high I can fling my body off the ground.”


“The vault is so unique because you have the commonality with everyone, no matter where you go you will have the best dialogue with another vaulter because you understand the exact problems you’re going through,” explained Ellis.


One of the most unique aspects of the Biola athletic department is the full devotion to the glory and honor of God through sports. With an understanding that failure is simply a part of the pole vault, Ellis desires to see the focus of each pole vaulter on God rather than just success.


“Track and field and pole vaulting do not last forever, but the friendships you find may last a lifetime,” said Calkins. “It is important to surround yourself with people that are Christ-centered if you yourself want to center your life on Christ. Here at Biola, and specifically in pole vault, you will find that.”


Written by Camryn Hudson, iBiola Intern. For more information, please contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Specialist at 562-777-4061 or jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.


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