http://www.columbian.com/news/2010/may/ ... -vaulters/
Prairie is Place for Pole Vaulters
Bier, Owsinski both hold top marks in state at Class 3A
By Steven Lane
Rarely does an athlete grow up dreaming about becoming the next great pole vaulter. The event usually is something that an athlete finds along the journey.
Blake Bier was a soccer player — a soccer player, it turned out, without a ride to practice.
Kristina Owsinski had concentrated on gymnastics almost from the time she could walk until an injury forced her to take time away from that sport.
Those two twists in life led them, eventually, to the pole vault at Prairie High School. And now, the two have the top marks among the state’s Class 3A pole vaulters this season.
Bier, a senior, has cleared the bar at 14 feet, 6 inches — a mark matched by Camas’ Jason Jones last week — and is looking for one good weather day to break 15 feet.
Owsinski, a junior, has the top girls mark by herself at 11-6 this season. She is hoping to improve on last season’s second-place finish at state — in her first year in the event.
Talk about Prairie pole vaulting power.
The two look to compete and advance from the district meet, which starts today at McKenzie Stadium, then head to regionals and onto state. Bier tied for seventh at state last year.
All this success in pole vault, and to think, it almost never happened for them.
Bier was a soccer player through his freshman year. As a student with a boundary exemption who lived in Hockinson, Bier was without a ride to the evening practices for the soccer squad his sophomore season. He did not yet have his driver’s license, and his mother advised him to try track and field, a sport that holds practice right after school and on campus.
“I love soccer, but I don’t play it anymore,” Bier said. “I’m all about pole vaulting.”
Bier was a sprinter at the start of his sophomore year before something caught his eye.
“I had never seen it before,” he said.
So he gave it a try.
“Wow, this is really cool,” he recalled thinking.
Owsinski was a club gymnast for as long as she could remember before an elbow injury slowed her.
She did not compete in a sport her freshman year, but as a sophomore on the cheerleading squad, it was suggested to her that she could shine in track and field.
She was an instant success, qualifying for state in the 100-meter hurdles as well as excelling in the pole vault.
Owsinski found the pole vault because of its reputation.
“I was told pole vault is the hardest event, and that not a lot of people can do it,” she said. “I consider myself to be pretty strong. I’m very fearless, too. Not a lot of stuff scares me.
“It sounded like a challenge. Gymnastics was so difficult and challenging, and I loved that aspect of it. I might as well give pole vault a try.”
Bier and Owsinski help each other in practice, taking instruction from pole vault coach Frank Schmidt. And while both excel at the event, they have very different approaches.
Bier acknowledges his fear factor. The most extreme event in track and field can be dangerous.
“I’ve been thrown back a couple of time. I’ve broken a pole,” he said, showing off a scar on his right leg from one incident last summer while working out. “I know what not to do and what to do. But I still fear it sometimes.”
Still, the allure of being in the air, of clearing the bar, is too strong to give in to those fears. Pole vaulting brings an adrenaline rush like no other, he said.
Because of Owsinski’s gymnastics background, she has no worries.
“I’m so used to flipping and being in the air that when I (pole) vault, it’s just a natural feeling for me,” she said.
Because of their passion, they also are coachable, according to Schmidt.
“I pinch myself every day because I can coach them,” Schmidt said. “It’s a very highly technical event. I can tell them special directions, and they do it. As a coach, you want to do cartwheels.”
That has helped in their development. Sure, both were quick learners, but they also have maintained that desire to improve.
Schmidt also said both help out with younger athletes. Bier, in fact, is hoping to earn his pole vault coaching license this summer.
Next year, Bier expects to be a pole vaulter in college. Owsinksi said she is going to compete all summer in hopes of preparing for her senior year as well as make a name for herself among college recruiters.
Two, three years ago, pole vault wasn’t even part of their lives. These days, it is their specialty.
Blake Bier and Kristina Owsinski had strange journeys to the event. Fortunately for them, they found a soft landing.
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