Dictionary.com describes pole-vaulting as “a field event in which a leap or vault over a crossbar is performed with the aid of a long pole”, but senior Jack Cahillane will tell you that it is so much more.
Cahillane, also known as the 2016 Georgia pole-vaulting state champion, has taken this sport to new heights. Cahillane wasn’t always a pole-vaulter though; in fact, he started out playing lacrosse in middle school.
“I didn’t make it on to the 7th grade lacrosse team,” said Cahillane. “Mr. Souza cut me.”
However, Cahillane still wanted to participate in a spring sport, so he hesitantly decided to join the junior high track team. Although Cahillane started off as a runner, he quickly changed his mind.
“I was in the midst of running the mile during a meet when I realized I was not having any fun,” Cahillane said. “I was in so much pain at that moment and I remember looking over at the pole-vaulters, and they were all laughing and having a good time.”
The very next day, Cahillane stopped running and started pole-vaulting. Cahillane has never looked back at lacrosse or running, but instead he has focused vaulting higher and higher.
By 9th grade, Cahillane started to get serious about pole-vaulting and decided that if he could continue to get better, he would vault in college. Now, Cahillane trains year round and has spent countless hours in the gym and on the track training for the sport.
“Part of Jack’s success is that he is extremely dedicated to the sport,” said the Westminster pole vault coach Katherine Clonts. “In fact, he not only physically dedicates himself to the sport, but also mentally dedicates himself, and is learning more and more about pole vaulting every day.”
Contrary to some people’s belief, pole-vaulting isn’t a sport where you can rely on just talent, you have to work in order to get stronger and faster.
“In the fall, I don’t jump. I am currently doing a lot of lifting, sprinting, stretching, and nursing my injuries from last season,” said Cahillane.
But, beginning in late October, Cahillane will start vaulting once again.
“I will jump twice a week until November, when I start competing indoors. This is known as the indoor season,” said Cahillane.
After the indoor season ends in March, Cahillane will start competing in the outdoor season, the more popular season for pole-vaulting. The indoor season is typically when you complete via a club, while during the outdoor season, you compete for a school team.
Cahillane also has great coaches and a first rate support team that have helped him along the way. During the off-season and indoor season, Cahillane trains with the Lovett coach Charlie Finch, but during the outdoor season Cahillane trains with Clonts. Both Finch and Clonts have gotten to know Cahillane over the four years that they have coached him.
Cahillane’s dedication and hard work has paid off and he has some great victories under his belt.
“15 feet was my goal for all of last season. It didn’t look like I would get there because I was getting 13 ft. 3 inches or 13 ft. 6 inches at every meet,” said Cahillane.
Then something changed. A week before the sectional meet, Cahillane went to Arkansas to work with Earl Bell, a 3 time Olympian in track and field. Working with Bell proved to be a transformative experience.
“After just three days Bell changed everything about my vaulting form and I got 14 ft. 8 inches,” said Cahillane.
After coming home from the camp, Cahillane was eager and excited to show his improvement. In the very next sectional meet, Cahillane scored 14 ft. 6 inches, an incredible improvement from his However, Cahillane knew that he needed to vault 15 ft. not only to get recruited by colleges, but also to win state.
When the state meet arrived, Cahillane was seeded as the underdog, and was not expected to win, or even place in the top group. At Cahillane’s first attempt at state, he cleared 14 ft. 6 inches, a respectable vault, but nonetheless missing his 15 ft. personal goal. On Cahillane’s second attempt, he again missed is 15 ft. goal. With only one attempt left, all of Cahillane’s hard work had built up to this one final jump.
“I brushed the bar on the way over and as I was falling I saw the bar shaking (if the bar would have fallen Cahillane’s last jump wouldn’t have counted),” Cahillane said. “And luckily, the bar stayed up and I won state.”
Since state Cahillane has cleared 15 ft. multiple times and Cahillane’s personal record is 15 ft. 3 inches. In fact, Cahillane cleared 15 ft. again at Nationals, where he placed 13th.
Cahillane spent this past summer working hard to advance his pole-vaulting. He contacted Bell and asked him how he could optimize his time during the summer and improve his pole vaulting. Bell responded by giving Cahillane an internship in Arkansas at a pole-vaulting camp for kids.
“I would train during the week with fellow classmate Claire Cotton, Mike Vanny, who is training for the Olympics now, and Germime Scott, who went to the Olympics in 2012,” Cahillane said, “Then I would work with the kids during the weekends, so it was a really rewarding experience.”
Cahillane is looking forward to beginning a successful career, as many colleges, particularly Ivy League and D1 schools, are actively recruiting him for college. Although Cahillane is not liberty to say which schools he has been in contact with, we do know that Cahillane will be committing to a D1 school by the end of the month. Congratulations Jack!