Pole vaulter Sydney Abitanto gave an eye-opening, jaw dropping, record-setting performance at the indoor track and field Meet of Champions on Feb. 24.
“It’s pretty funny,” Abitanto said. “My dad has a video.” In the recording, the North junior’s eyes are wide open and her jaw drops after she clears 11-feet to place seventh in the girls pole vault in the state’s most competitive meet of the season.
Prior to the meet, Abitanto had never cleared higher than 10 feet, and she was seeded 31st. Her first jump turned out to be 10-6, which gave her not only a new personal record, but the school’s all-time mark. It didn’t last long, though. She cleared 11-feet with her second jump to end her record-setting day with a medal.
“Maybe you clear the record and you get a little adrenaline,” said North head coach Brian Gould.“Just the adrenaline of the moment and the weight off her shoulders of breaking the record. I see that a lot in our kids in pole vault, those double PRs. The medal was what was incredible.”
Abitanto said that going into the meet, she just wanted to clear the opening height. “I didn’t know if I’d get it. At counties, sectionals and groups, I only cleared 10-feet.”
Her 10-feet clearance at groups had earned her a berth in the MOC. Just making it that far was quite an accomplishment. She went to the MOC looking for a new record, but understood how difficult it would be. Even in practice, she hadn’t cleared 10-6 while fine tuning before the MOC.
“As I entered the meet, I was thinking about all the time and energy I’ve put in, the late practices, the weight lifting. It was the last meet of the season, so I was ready for a PR.”
She surprised herself with the way she responded to the moment, not just once but twice. She was inspired by the setting that helped her produce a couple of new bests.
While based on her MOC finish, pole vault may be her best event, it’s far from her only event. Abitanto isn’t like many top pole vaulters who specialize solely in the very technical event. She will do a myriad of events in the upcoming outdoor season from hurdles and sprints to long jump and triple jump along with pole vault.
Balancing her workouts is a significant challenge, but something that she enjoys. She tries to get in as much as possible each day.
“Depending on the day, I’ll do sprints, hurdle work and then do pole vault,” she said. “I end up staying later than the average kid. It adds a lot of time. I’m very invested in it.”
Abitanto showed sprints and hurdles ability first. It wasn’t until more than midway through her first season of indoor freshman year that she gave pole vault a chance.
“Coach Gould came up and asked if I wanted to be a pole vaulter,” Abitanto said. “He knew I was a dancer. The pole vaulters practiced on their own. I never wanted to ask.”
She cleared 6-feet at the Mercer County Championships that year.
“He put me in the county meet, and I literally was so confused,” Abitanto said. “I started pole vaulting a week before counties. I went in not knowing what I was doing and I cleared a bar and it was so exhilarating, that I kept doing it.”
She cleared 9 feet by the end of the spring season, and she’s been building from there. It hasn’t always gone as smoothly as she hoped, but she’s made progress each year.
“My sophomore year I was really focused on the height and getting over 9-6,” Abitanto said. “I only got to 9-6 sophomore year. Trying 10 was super frustrating. This year, I got rid of all the numbers. I just thought of running fast and trying to have fun with it. That’s what’s gotten me higher numbers.”
She maintained that outlook as she headed into the state competitions. It helped keep her properly focused when she hit the biggest stage, the MOC.
“What helped have a better mindset was thinking of all the countless hours I’d spent,” she said. “For it to pay off was so rewarding and such a great feeling. My teammates and I put so much effort into it.”
North was only five points away from the sectional championship in the indoor season. They will push for gold in the outdoor season.
“I’m excited for all the opportunities that I have this spring to help score points for the team,” Abitanto said. “Our main goal is to win counties and sectionals. I’m hoping to do what I can. I’m willing to put in the time to get the points I can.”