Today, Verona High School sophomore Owen Fogarty broke the VHS boys indoor track record in pole vault, clearing 12’6″, and he did it at one of the most high-profile events in New Jersey: the Group track championship in Toms River.
Setting records at Verona High School is a big deal. Not only do you get the bragging rights, but you also get your name on a huge board in the gym at the high school. Until this morning, the boys indoor pole vault record had been stuck at 12 feet, where it was set in 2011 by Joshua Held, who graduated with the class of 2011. Since Fogarty started winter track, he has had his eye set on it. At two previous meets, Fogarty had tied the 12′ record but was not able to beat it. On February 10, Fogarty competed at track Sectionals in Toms River, where his best height of the day was again 12 feet. That was enough to get Fogarty to Groups, and today at Groups he beat the record and secured himself a place at Meet of Champions with a height of 12’6. Meet of Champs, which will be held on February 24 and 25, is the final stage of winter track competition, the most important and the hardest to get to. For Fogarty to get there as only a sophomore shows how great an athlete he is.
Congratulations Owen Fogarty….A NEW SCHOOL RECORD! 12’6 pic.twitter.com/8Z1S8xZH2i
— Verona Boys XC/Track (@VHSBoysXC_Track) February 17, 2018
Pole vault is one of the most exciting track and field events, and it is very nerve wracking to watch athletes vault themselves to such a high height. It is a difficult sport because an athlete needs both speed and upper body strength to get over the bar and, unlike sports like football, baseball or basketball, most students have never done pole vaulting before high school. The vaulter needs to run very fast down the straightaway for a number of steps specific to them, so many pole vaulters count their steps for every right or left foot. Once they reach the pit, the metal box where they plant the pole, the athlete must use the pole to project themselves up to the height of bar. The goal is to not touch the bar because even the slightest movement can cause it to fall. While athletes in other sports can advance by a single inch or a fraction of a second, in pole vault the bar is raised in six-inch increments only. The opening height for today’s meet was 10’6″; first place in Group 1 today was 13’6″.
Fogarty started pole vaulting his freshman year during spring track, but decided to come out for winter track as a sophomore. His older sister, who has graduated Verona High School, was also a pole vaulter, a main reason why Fogarty began the sport. As a freshman, Fogarty showed his coach and his teammates he has what it takes to be a star athlete, but this past winter season helped validate that. He is already doing better than some veteran vaulters.
The difference between winter and spring track is that winter meets are all indoors. This gives the athlete a slight disadvantage; most people do better during the spring season. The VHS boys spring pole vault record is 13’6″, set by Willie Taylor in 1974.
Because it is winter, it is too cold to bring the pole vault mats out, so the athletes cannot practice outside. Fogarty and other pole vaulters go to an indoor pole vaulting gym called Apex Vaulting in Fairfield. There, Fogarty works on his technique. “I wouldn’t have don’t this well without Branko and all the other coaches at Apex,” Fogarty says, referring to Coach Branko Miric. “Everyone there is just so talented and training there has improved my skill so much.”
With spring track just around the corner, Fogarty will have multiple opportunities to break any new goals he sets for himself, like the spring record. Since he is a only a sophomore, he does not have many future plans set out yet, but one goal is to vault in college. “I would love to pole vault at a D1 college,” Fogarty says. “Doing something with my life in the future that I enjoy is important to me and I hope and think pole vault will be a part of it.”