Feb. 28, 2020
Biola University’s six-member pole vault team took first and second place in the women’s vault and second and third place in the men’s vault at the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Championship meet in April at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif.
In the past five years, Biola’s pole vault team has grown immensely, going from one member and no coach to the six committed members and designated pole vault coach, TJ Ellis.
According to Ellis, having such a well-established, supported and high-caliber pole vault team at an NAIA school is unique because of the high costs generally involved with the sport.
Biola pole vaulters posted two NAIA All-American finishes in 2014 and two more in 2015. Nicole Falkenstein took home two All-American honors this year with top-88 finishes at the NAIA Outdoor National Championships.
Team members Christina Clark, Kristine Dahl, Nicole Falkenstein, Brandon Mancini, Jeff Tran and Holton Witman, range from freshmen to seniors, all of whom uphold excellence in their athletic endeavors and in their daily lives as students. Two of the six student-athletes earned GSAC and NAIA Scholar-Athlete awards this year.
Falkenstein and Mancini were among 13 Biola track & field athletes who won the award. Students must be a junior or senior and have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or more to qualify. Biola's 13 honorees was the most of the teams in the GSAC.
Mancini, senior business major, began pole vaulting as a freshman and received the scholar-athlete award for the second time in April. Mancini also placed third at GSAC Championships after jumping a new personal best of 14 feet. His third-place finish earned him all-conference honors.
The pole vault requires tremendous strength, agility and a focused state of mind, according to Ellis.
“There’s no way around the hard work required and sacrifices you have to make to reach your goals –– whether it’s time with friends or sleep. But once the season is over, it’s all worth it,” said Mancini.
“We have many outstanding athletes. This whole team has been the biggest blessing to me and all the other coaches. They know what it means to put in time and energy into the things they love,” said Ellis.
The support of the head coaches has been helpful in the success of the athletes.
“Our head coaches have been great at backing our program. They have seen the potential of the vaulters here at Biola and have chosen to support them fully,” said Ellis.
The 2014-2015 Interim Head Coach, Bill Crumley, said that the pole vault team has been a prime example to other athletes in attitude and sportsmanship.
“Our pole vault team has been a very productive one as part of our track and field team this season,” said Crumley. “We are very blessed to have each of them. Their positive attitudes and work ethic and leadership have been a great example to the rest of the team.”
As a Biola alumnus, Ellis requested to be an assistant coach after pole vaulting at Biola as a student without the direction and mentorship of a coach. During his time at Biola, Ellis has coached five All-American pole vaulters and assisted with two GSAC championship teams.
Having established an excellent and capable team, Ellis said that three things sum up the spirit of its members.
“They are all amazing Christians, lights that shine so bright,” said Ellis. “They are great students, craving to learn more and endless effort in their studies. Lastly, they are dedicated athletes. They try to leave all that is going on in school and in their social lives outside of track practice and meets, and come ready and prepared to train hard.”
In the future, Ellis hopes the pole vault team will continue to succeed in local conferences, and also grow to compete on a national level. The main objective, Ellis said, is to help members achieve their best.
Written by Mystiana Victorino, iBiola intern. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or email@example.com.
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