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Sarafian battled his way to NCAA meet
BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer
Adam Sarafian has learned that success isn't measured by how high you vault or titles you've won. It's how you handle adversity.
Pole-vaulter Adam Sarafian, who overcame a series of debilitating injuries to continue competing, recently wrapped up his collegiate career.
No one seemed to have a brighter future in front of them entering college than the former Ocean Township High School great.
The Spartan enjoyed the finest polevaulting season in state history his senior year. He elevated the state record to the still standing 17-4 ½ and won the Triple Crown in the spring, the Penn Relays, Golden West and National Outdoor championships. He was the top-ranked pole-vaulter in the country.
The future seemed to hold so much promise for him as he headed to the University of Georgia in Athens.
Sarafian's collegiate goals were to raise his personal best up to 18-4, which just happens to be the qualifying standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials and win an NCAA title.
Sarafian's collegiate career, which started at the University of Georgia, took a side trip to Arkansas State and concluded back at Georgia, ended last week (June 10) at the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. and it concluded without an NCAA title and with a pb of 17-6 ½. But, before you judge his college career a disappointment (he was All-American in 2006), walk a mile in his shoes.
Considering all obstacles he had to overcome (a rash of debilitating injuries) and the limitations it put on him, Sarafian's career was far from disappointing. In fact, it was inspirational, a tribute to making the best out of a bad situation and never throwing in the towel. He learned more about life than he did vaulting in Athens.
"I just learned that no matter how I do, be happy with what I did under the circumstances," said Sarafian, who graduated from Georgia last month with a degree in geology.
Those circumstances were a rash of injuries that tested his resolve. But, no matter how many times he was knocked down, he kept getting back up. When others would have had enough, he carried on.
"It made me feel good that I didn't stop," said Sarafian. "It was character building."
Just being in Fayetteville was a triumph in itself for Sarafian. Back in March, everything was going well for the former Spartan. Then, in practice, his pole snapped and it resulted in a broken right hand, the one he uses to push off on the pole as it is planted.
The broken hand didn't keep him from competing and he would take sixth place at the Southeast Conference Championships back in April.
When he was competing at the NCAA East Region, Sarafian still had pain in that right hand, but, that, was only part of his problem. He had developed pain in his right foot as well. A pain, it turns out, that signaled a stress fracture.
This didn't stop him from competing either. To compensate for the injury, Sarafian limited his run up to 80 feet (everyone else was doing at least 120).
"I go as fast as I can on the runway," Sarafian explained.
Under those circumstances, the NCAA's were a long shot at best when he competed in the NCAA East Regional on May 30 in Greensboro, N.C. Sarafian did more than just compete. He managed to do 16-11 ¾, which was good enough for fourth place and a surprise ticket to the NCAA.
"I didn't know I made it," he said. "After I missed my last jump at 17-2, I thought it was the last jump of my college career and I was pretty upset.
"I was astonished I got fourth place," he added. "I said to myself "it's a good thing you didn't give up."
He had new life and was off, fittingly, for the University of Arkansas for his final college meet. And, fittingly, Sarafian would clear a season's best 17-2 ¾ in the qualifying round. It appeared to be good enough to get him to the finals (he was even told he has qualified) as he finished in a four-way tie for 15th place. Eighteen vaulters cleared 17-2 ¾ and in order to narrow the field down for the finals, Sarafian and the three others vaulters, who cleared that height on their final attempts were eliminated (the other 14 had cleared 17-2 ¾ on either their first or second attempts).
As hard as it was for Sarafian not to get to the final, he learned that victory isn't always finishing in the medals. It's what you did with the cards you were dealt and judging the results with the hand he was dealt (broken foot), Sarafian would say he is happy that he set a new broken foot personal best.
Some of the adversity that Sarafian faced had nothing to do with vaulting. He decided to transfer to Arkansas State after his sophomore year because he didn't think things were working out in Athens.
"I was a little unhappy (at Georgia)," he said. "I learned the grass isn't greener on the other side.
"I went back where I had everything," he added.
Georgia took Sarafian back. But, soon, the injury bug would begin to strike. In the summer of 2007, it was discovered that he had fractured discs in his lower back. He was in back brace for four months and physical therapy followed. The 2008 season was one of rebuilding, Sarafian was ready for a big senior year (he won the Kentucky Invitational at the start of the indoor season) and then came March and the broken hand.
Along with injuries and broken bones, Sarafian also had to deal with having four different vaulting coaches in his career. Luckily, just in time, he found a coach that is seemingly perfect for him in Petros Kyprianou.
"I like him a lot," said Sarafian. "A coach is someone you hang out with three or four hours a day. He's someone you need to talk to."
Sarafian and Kyprianou have clicked as a team and it's the big reason that he made it to the NCAA's and why he has not said goodbye to pole vaulting.
After spending the summer doing geology work in Alaska and healing his foot, Sarafian will return to Georgia for postgraduate work in the fall where he will continue to be coached by Kyprianou. The goal is to get to the European circuit next summer with the long-term goal the 2012 Olympic Trials.
What Sarafian is looking forward to the most though, is the opportunity to set a 'healthy personal best.' He deserves that at the very least.
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