http://www.detnews.com/2005/schools/050 ... 160963.htm
Drill helps vaulters get to the top
Howell High School athletes plunge right into practice in the aquatic center pool.
By Linda Theil / Special to The Detroit News
John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News
Hohos works with Jared Vince. In the drill, pole vaulters go directly to the bottom of the pool, feet down. They grasp the vaulting pole and push their hips over their heads.
What: Track meet of Howell High School varsity track team vs. Lakeland High School
When: 4 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Howell High, 1200 W. Grand River Ave., Howell
Contact: Vaulting coach Mike Marek at Howell High School Freshman Campus, (517) 548-6267
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HOWELL -- Howell Public School's aquatic trainer, Shari Hohos, sat on the diving board, pushing a double-length vaulting pole firmly against the bottom of the 14-foot-deep pool. In the water underneath the board, Elizabeth Reznikov, 18, paddled at the head of a line of varsity athletes.
"Liz, what's your goal?" said vaulting coach Mike Marek. "Do what you're comfortable with, and we'll take it from there."
Reznikov plunged, feet down, directly to the bottom of the pool. She grasped the vaulting pole and, using the strength of her upper body, pushed her hips over her head and propelled herself feet first out of the water.
The underwater drill imprints the highly technical vaulting process in athletes' minds and strengthens core muscles in their backs and bellies, allowing them to vault with more confidence and safety.
Marek said the drill is used by college teams and professional pole vaulters.
"This drill is extremely effective because it slows down enough so kids can see what's happening," Marek said. "You can really evaluate your technique."
Reznikov and 10 other members of the Howell High School varsity pole vaulting team have been training at Howell Area Aquatic Center during the winter to improve their vaulting technique.
"It's probably the most useful thing I've done in my four years of vaulting," she said.
"It helps me get comfortable with my vault because being underwater slows down your movement. Water has a resistance effect, so you can focus on where your arm is supposed to go, where your legs are. It helped me become more confident with my vault because I understand the mechanics of it more. Outside, I was able to get my feet up better."
A former vaulter for the University of Wisconsin, Marek was intrigued by the possibilities of perfecting vaulting technique in the slow-motion atmosphere of the pool. He planned to investigate the pool vaulting drill when, as a new assistant track coach, he began working with the pole vaulters last year.
Marek took advantage of the athletic department's water gym program, which allows high school coaches to schedule their teams for water workouts with the aquatic center's Shari Hohos, a water exercise specialist certified by the National Aquatic Exercise Association.
Marek and Hohos worked together to perfect the drill for the pole vaulting team to use during several scheduled practices at the pool this winter.
During development, they projected underwater films of advanced vaulters using the technique on the wall at the pool. Hohos put Marek in the water and talked him through the process.
Then they worked with freshmen vaulters to trouble-shoot the details. They created techniques to get the athletes down and to stay under the water. They also developed methods of building upper body strength to get the vaulters closer to the pole.
"We had to teach them to hold their body close to the pole -- to pull their body into it and work close to it," Hohos said. "When they do that they have the full range of mobility. They use the pole to anchor, and once they figured that out, they could relax and work. The only other issue was getting the kids comfortable under water and getting upside down. They had to overcome that anxious feeling."
Freshman Chelsea Kutey, 15, is a sprinter and a beginning vaulter.
"I was scared at first, but once you get down there you go through everything and the water pushes you up," Kutey said. "This shows you how to do it and gets your form down in slow motion."
Hohos said that in addition to slowing down the vaulting, working underwater has the advantage of strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and back.
"When those muscles are strong, you have more power to do whatever you want to do," Hohos said. "Also, upper body strength is enhanced in the water because they have to pull against the buoyancy. So that enhances their performance when they get to land. They should be stronger to do that after working out in the water."
Junior Darin Deck, 16, has been vaulting for three years. He attended a vaulting camp last summer with Marek at Steven's Point, Wis., run by Olympian Jan Johnson.
"This right here is the best way to get the feel for it," Deck said. "You're really not under there very long; there are no steps, no run through. This drill is just to get upside down and finish the top of your vault."
Junior Jessica Ernst, 17, has been vaulting for two years. Her personal record is 9 feet 6 inches and she hopes that "pool vaulting" will improve her form.
"It's really, really nice being able to slow down your vault on the top," she said.
She became interested in the sport because her brother was a vaulter.
"He said it's the coolest feeling ever," she said. "He's right; it feels like flying."