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Pole vaulter competes despite exclusion from OAA

Martindale mounts the 11 pole to qualify for states. She broke a school record. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
August 29, 2012 - By Olivia Shumaker

Review Intern

To rising Lake Orion High School junior Madeleine Martindale, flying through the air is second nature, thanks to the track and field event she loves: pole vaulting.

Pole vaulting, in a nutshell, consists of an individual running while carrying a pole, sticking the pole in a box on the ground while running and using the bend of the pole to catapult themselves over a bar, landing on a mat on the other side. If the individual can get over the bar without knocking it down, the jump is considered a success. Needless to say, it is a feat requiring a healthy dose of fearlessness and gymnastic skill, both of which Martindale possesses.

Martindale started gymnastics training in second grade, continuing the sport for years. In eighth grade at Oakview Middle School, she joined the track team, which is where pole vaulting first crossed her radar, thanks to Oakview track coach Carl Zoolkowski.

"He's like, 'Hey, you're a gymnast. Gymnasts are usually really good at pole vaulting. You should try it,'" Martindale said.

The road after that was not smooth sailing. At the time, Lake Orion High School did not have a pole vaulting team or coach, because the OAA League does not include the event in League meets. This forced Martindale, at first, to travel two and a half hours to train with a pole vaulting coach before she began working with the Oxford pole vaulting coach during her freshman year.

"He helped me get through the year," Martindale said. "It was a rough year."

The Oxford coach transferred during Martindale's sophomore year, and Lake Orion athletic director William Reiss assisted in securing a coach so that Martindale could compete in pole vaulting as a Dragon. Martindale and a gymnastics friend also worked together to start a Lake Orion pole vaulting team within the track team.

In the end, the effort paid off. At the regional track qualifier, Martindale managed to set a new high school record and a new personal best with a jump of nine feet ten inches, despite spraining her ankle a week before.

"Making it over the qualifying height, that was amazing," Martindale said. "Just jumping up, seeing my coach's face."

Martindale was the only Lady Dragon from the track team to travel to the state meet that year, celebrating the boys' team's championship title with them. Next year, with a new girls' track coach, she hopes to return to states with the rest of her team alongside her.

"Everyone who runs track for the girls' team does it because they want it, not just because of the varsity letter," Martindale said. "I think with a coach who's committed to us we could get there. We have the heart."

Aside from pole vaulting, Martindale runs the 100 and 200 meter dashes in track and is a cheerleader during football and the competitive season. She has been out of gymnastics for a few years due to a doctor's recommendation to discontinue practice after falling on her head. Within two years Martindale hopes to pole vault in college, with a fondness for Grand Valley State University (though she is open to going out of state.) During a meet this summer, Martindale broke her own personal record with a jump of ten feet at a competition.

Look for Martindale and her teammates in the spring to continue experiencing, "the thrill of getting thrown in the air," Martindale said.

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