Penn Relays pole vault preview

(Aside: If you didn't see Bill Lyon's great column on the Penn Relays in Sunday's Inquirer, check it out here. There is also an early preview of the meet from The Inquirer's Joe Juliano here.)

I have always been fascinated by the pole vault event at the Penn Relays, or at just about any track meet for that matter.

I suspect that is because there is no way I could possibly do it myself.

I sit on press row and look across Franklin Field, and I just cannot figure out how it is that a human being launches himself or herself all those feet into the air with a gigantic fiberglass stick.

Then, once airborne, said human being has to twist himself or herself in such a way that he or she clears the horizontal bar, which is set up there about as firmly as a house of cards.

It's one thing to watch the event on television at the Olympics. It's another to see it in person, and to try to comprehend at close distance what seems a clear violation of everything Sir Isaac Newton tried to teach us in middle school.

Now that I have got us in the proper frame of mind, I give you Daily News staff writer Frank Bertucci's Penn Relays pole vault preview.


The last track and field event University of Arkansas junior Tina Sutej expected to try was the pole vault.

Growing up in Slovenia, she'd been involved in track since she was seven years old, and by the time she was a teenager she was a heptathlete. But when her coach left the sports club where she trained in Ljubljana, her new coach also coached vaulters.

"I wanted to try something new," she said.

And she became good at it.

"After a few years of vaulting I thought I could be good," she said. "Now I just want to jump higher."

Sutej won the women's pole vault championship at last year's Penn Relays, at a mere 13-7 3/4. Since then she's hit a national collegiate record of 14-10 3/4 at the SEC indoor championships at Fayetteville, Ark., and set the NCAA indoor championship meet record at 14-7 1/4 at that meet at Texas A&M in March.

And after three tries at the height at the Texas Relays in early April, Sutej's ready for the 15-foot barrier.

Even though Sutej won at Franklin Field last year, the conditions weren't the best for vaulting. The women's championship event started after 5 PM, and didn't finish until a few hours later.

"Last year the conditions were pretty bad," Sutej remembered. "What I do depends on the weather. "If the weather's good I can jump pretty high. I say that all the time.

"I'm getting consistent over 14 feet. Last year I was doing 13-5, 13-7. This year, if I get consistent I can jump better."

Sutej has already represented Slovenia in international competitions, and should be on her country's team for the London Olympics in 2012. And she said she wants to stay at it until the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

But first comes another Penn Relays, and maybe another shot at 15 feet.

"I got really close at Texas," Sutej said.

And those other seven events she did as a heptathlete.....

"Strictly pole vault now," she said.