Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 18
 
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
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(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

BAR EXAM: Princeton High junior pole vaulter Gerhard Gengel clears the bar in a recent training session. Gengel will be looking to soar to a title this Saturday as he competes in the Mercer County Championships at Steinert High.

PHS Pole Vaulting Star Gengel Aims to Fly High at County Meet

Matt Flory

Pole vaulting is one of the most unique and and demanding events in track and field.

Taking a long pole and sprinting down a runway and then leaping over a bar set any where from 10 to 14 feet is not for the fainthearted.

But for Princeton High junior Gerhard Gengel, pole vaulting is a daily routine like getting up in the morning and brushing his teeth.

Gengel pole vaults seven days a week, six days a week at PHS track practice and then every Sunday at “Vertical Assault,” a year-round pole vaulting club based in Bethlehem, Pa.

That hard work has paid off as Gengel has emerged as a consistent winner in the event for the Little Tigers.

This weekend, Gengel will look to leap to the top of the heap among area vaulters as he competes in the Mercer County Championships on May 9at Steinert High.

If Gengel comes through with the title, he will be following a family tradition as his older sister, Natalie, was a pole vaulting legend at PHS, winning the state indoor and outdoor titles in 2006.

Gengel acknowledged that his older sister, now a junior star at Cornell University where she holds the school record (13’3), had a big influence on him.

“When I first moved here, I did soccer and tennis, then my sister started pole vaulting,” recalled Gengel.

“When she got recruited I figured, well if she can do it, then I can do it too and maybe I can get recruited to a good college.”

He noted that while his sister and his parents had a big effect on his decision to pole vault he “also thought it looked cool, so I decided on my own to do it.”

This spring, Gengel has been doing more than pole vaulting for the PHS squad, turning in some good work in the 400-meter run as well. “I’ve been running the 400 at around 53 seconds,” said Gengel. “My goal this season is to run the 400 in 52 seconds.”

As for the pole vault, Gengel has some lofty goals as he looks toward following in his sister’s footsteps and competing at the college level.

“I jumped 12 feet again, which I did last year, but I’m trying to break that,” added Gengel.

“I want to jump 14 feet because I went up two feet last spring and I want to do it again. A lot of colleges that I’ve talked to want at least 15 feet so I’m hoping that if I can get to 14 this year then maybe I can get 15 next year.”

For Gengel, going higher will come down to focusing on the moment. “I try to clear my mind and just think about the jump,” explained Gengel. “It goes by so fast that I can’t really think mid-jump about what to do.”

Gengel’s ability to clear his mind helps him deal with the potential for injury that comes with the event.

“I guess when I first started it might have gone through my mind, but I don’t think about it anymore,” said Gengel, noting that he has suffered a few scrapes and cuts through vaulting but nothing more serious.

“Every now and then you get a close call when you go straight up and you aren’t going in to the pit, or you go backwards, but usually if you stay calm, you can land on your feet.”

Overcoming those fears has made pole vaulting almost routine for Gengel.

“It’s not that hard once you get used to it, but starting out its pretty hard,” asserted Gengel.

“It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once you understand what you have to do and what you are doing, it gets a lot easier.”

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