Andrea Smith wants to pole vault 6 feet, 12 inches. That's right, 6-12. It's her father's idea.
"My father [Rob] said, 'Andrea, it's 6-12. Don't think of it as 7. It's 6-12.' "
It's a numbers game. It's a mental game. It's pole vaulting.
"When you hit a certain height and start thinking how high it is, it messes you all up," said Smith, a Centennial senior who last Wednesday cleared 6-10 to set a county record. "Seven has been a big goal for me. It's only two more inches, but it's a mental thing. I think I'm capable of doing it. It's just a matter of getting it all together at the right time."
This is the first year girls have pole vaulted in Howard County. Six girls, representing three schools, have taken the challenge and have the bruises and scrapes to prove it. Those things will heal and go away, but the memories will last a lifetime.
They were the first. And hasn't it been fun.
"I love it," said Atholton senior Janine Dauberman.
Atholton has four pole vaulters, including Dauberman, who cleared 6-6 at the Duckworth Relays to set the county standard. The other three are sophomores Becky Peterson and Angela Radke, both of whom have cleared 6 feet, and freshman Allison Marin.
Last, but not least, is Lori Tvarkunus, a Glenelg freshman -- and yes, her brother is Pat, the top pole vaulter in the area.
Lori feels "a lot of stress." Imagine having your brother telling you everything you do wrong.
"We get along really well, but when it comes to him telling me I'm doing something wrong, it doesn't work out," said Lori, who has cleared 5-6. "I reject his criticisms. Once he's gone next year, I figure I'll be a little more at ease with it."
While Lori plans to attend a summer camp and continue pole vaulting the next three years, this week's county championships at Atholton signal the end for Smith and Dauberman. Points for girls pole vaulting will be awarded in the county meet, but not in the region and state championships.
Dauberman, who will attend James Madison in the fall, will compete in the mile- and two-mile relays, as well as the triple jump and pole vault, at the county championship. She concentrates on her running and triple jump in practice, but competes in the pole vault because it is new and challenging and can help the team.
"I want to do it for the team and get more points, and I do it for myself because it's fun," said Dauberman, who was urged to try the event by assistant girls coach Chris Rohde, a former pentathlete at the University of Maryland.
Pole vaulting can be dangerous, but the girls don't think about it.
"You have to have a lot of trust and not be afraid of getting hurt," said Smith, who will attend Frostburg State in the fall. "You have to be fearless when you vault. You just have to do it."
According to Pat Tvarkunus, pole vaulting is "a technical event. It's just a matter of practice. Once you get the technique, it comes down to strength and speed."
Said Dauberman: "None of us have the technique yet."
The girls swing through their vaults, meaning they don't bend the pole. They also have difficulty turning their bodies.
"I can't turn. That's my biggest problem," said Dauberman. "I have many bruises on my back from landing on the pole."
Smith, who also throws the discus and the shot put, is the most advanced of the group and spends a good amount of practice time on the pole vault. She credits teammates Rob Rix and Dave Johnson, both pole vaulters, with giving her valuable instruction.
When Centennial girls coach Beth Brown told Smith about pole vaulting this spring, she jumped at the opportunity. "She was totally sold on it," Brown said. "I could see it in her eyes. She really wanted the challenge."
Smith set a county record of 6-7 at the Glenelg Invitational before clearing 6-8 and then 6-10 at last Wednesday's meet at Atholton. Now 6-12 stands in her way.
"It's so much fun to do," said Smith, who plans to join Frostburg State's track team. "I think it's really good that girls are doing it now."
Pub Date: 5/05/96