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PAXTON — Having just graduated from Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School three weeks ago, the whole rest of his life ahead of him, Nick Glover admits there are many unknowns and twists to come that he can’t begin to predict. There is also one certainty.
His desire to compete in the pole vault will not waver.
“I just need it in my life because it’s something I love to do,” Glover said.
That’s why Glover found himself sitting on the west end of the football field at PBL High a couple Wednesdays ago, hanging out by the pole vault pit. He was helping with — and, to get his fill, participating in — a camp directed by PBL Junior High cross country and track and field coach Rob Pacey focused on the fundamentals and the art of the sport’s most gravity defying and, many would say, thrilling event.
A dozen or so campers entering grades six through 12 had shown up to learn how to thrust themselves up in the air and over a bar (ranging from five feet above ground for the young ones to 11 feet for the initiated like Glover) using nothing more than the laws of physics and poles that are wrapped in fiberglass or made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic.
“It can be a little bit of an intimidating event,” Pacey said. “It’s not exactly natural to run around with a pole in your hand and jump.”
No, it’s not. But there is that certain thrill involved, which drew Glover to it when he was an eighth-grade student in the St. Joe-Ogden school district.
“Once you learn to bend the pole, you’re pumped,” said Glover, admitting it can be “boring” at first to just learn the fundamentals of such an exciting event. “It just feels so good that you can do that. Then once you start (setting personal records), it feels so good to fall from 12 feet onto your back.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment, especially at the junior high level, because you’re doing an event a lot of people would like to do in their dreams but maybe aren’t capable of doing,” Pacey added. “It’s something they can be proud of in their ability.”
To master the pole vault, or even begin to learn, it takes speed, strength and mental toughness, Pacey said. Then, as Glover put it in layman’s terms, it’s about getting as much power and thrust as you can after sticking your pole in the ground and combining that with the proper technique. The more bend in the pole, the more thrust you get.
It is, Pacey pointed out, an event that takes a lot of repetition, from those youngsters at the PBL camp to the Olympic-level athletes.
“It’s nice to have kids who are interested and willing to learn … It’s a learning process, but I’m more than happy to get us going on pole vault. We don’t like to have overlooked events in track and field. So if you’ve got kids who are interested in it, you want to give them an opportunity to be successful with that interest,” Pacey said.
“We start with a lot of on-the-ground work, starting with planting. We do some stuff in the long jump pits. It’s a lot from the ground up, just like you would in any other jump event … You just have to get them to see the pieces of it and get over it. Once they can get over some of the unnatural parts of the event, like being upside down or swinging and landing on the mats, then they start to get comfortable.”
Glover has found that comfort, as displayed by when he advanced to state for PBL in the pole vault in May. But his competitive pole vaulting career is almost certainly over, hence his how-do-I-keep-it-in-my-life wonderment. He leaves July 2 for Army basic training in Fort Benning, Ga., with the goal of being a combat medic.
“I know I want to help people, and I feel like that’s a good way to do that,” Glover said of joining the Army.
After about nine weeks in Georgia, Glover will head to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for advanced individualized training “to learn to be a medic,” he said.
There probably won’t be time, or the equipment and logistical set-up, for Glover to pursue his love of pole vaulting during those times, and he hasn’t decided what comes after that. He’s thrown around the idea of making a career out of the Army, staying in 20 years or so and getting full benefits upon leaving. But then, “You don’t see a whole lot of 38-year-olds pole vaulting. Maybe I’ll be an exception. I don’t know,” he said.
Another option is to serve a shorter term, then pursue a goal of becoming a surgeon, with the Army paying for his schooling. That might leave some time later in life to coach track and field on the side, which would allow him to “pole vault every day,” Glover laughs.
So for those scoring at home, yes, Nick Glover has a lot of big choices to come. And lots of big dreams, one of which he hopes will never change.
“When I get out (of the Army) … I’m going to set up mats and have free competitions in my yard,” Glover said back in May after performing at the state meet. “I’ll live out in the country, make a runway, buy the collegiate mats. I’d rather spend $15,000 on mats and poles than a new car, quite honestly.
“I want to be able to vault in my free time, so whether it’s in my backyard or if I live by a gym that has it, I just need it in my life. It’s something I love to do. It’s something I love to teach people.”