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Interval Session #26 - Shade Weygandt

January 16, 2008

Mansfield TX junior Shade Weygandt has been been tearing up the pole vault runways since her freshman year, when she claimed the national frosh class record in 2006 with her 12-09 outdoor clearance. Last winter, she set a sophomore record under cover at the Reno Pole Vault Summit (13-06), and finished as runner-up at Nike Indoor Nationals, before taking her poles outside again for a sophomore and age-16 outdoor mark of 13-07 in winning the Texas 5A state meet. She followed up that triumph with a national title at the 2007 Nike Outdoor Nationals on a less-than ideal day of vaulting.

Shade has had a torrid start to the 2008 campaign, winning this year's Vault Summit with a lifetime indoor best of 13-07, then cementing her status as the female vaulter to beat with a 13-05 victory at the Arkansas HS Invitational.

DyeStat assistant editor Dave Devine tapes up the wrists, chalks up the hands, and heads for the pole vault pit for a tete-a-tete with this Texas titan.

1) Looks like your season is off to a great start with wins at the Vault Summit in Reno and at the Arkansas meet last weekend. Can you talk about that Vault Summit competition? It looks crazy, with all the runways side-by-side and the chance for Olympians and high schoolers to mingle together...must be nirvana for pole vaulters. What's the meet like, and what do you take away from an experience like that?

I love the Reno Pole Vault Summit!

It is my favorite meet of the year! I always have so much fun there and it is just such an awesome atmosphere to vault in and it is always run so fast and efficiently. But it can be distracting to be jumping alongside so many other runways, and hearing all the other competitors' poles slamming into the box. But one of the hardest things to face while you are jumping there is when people are clapping for another competitor beside you. [In these cases I usually just wait for the other competitor to complete their vault before I start.] But overall, I just get so pumped for this meet because you get to see the elites jump on Friday and you get a taste of what it would be like to be an elite one day.

2) Can you talk about the difference between vaulting indoors and out, for those who've never done it? What are some of the challenges and benefits of each? Is there one you prefer over the other?

In my opinion, I love vaulting indoors. There is no wind to worry about and no other element, such as the cold or rain. Indoors to me is pretty much just the perfect situation. Outdoors there are just many different variables that can affect you. I especially don't like the cold, so that is really hard for me to deal with at the beginning of the season. But outdoors you can also get a big tailwind which can help me move up poles more efficiently, often leading to higher outdoor clearances.

3) Pole vaulting is a relatively new sport for girls in the US. What got you interested in the sport, and are there any vaulters, male or female, to whom you look for inspiration?

I pretty much just stumbled across pole vaulting in 7th grade and just loved it from the beginning! From 8th grade up, I joined a club for just vaulters and began to progress from there. A vaulter that I look up to would have to be Stacy Dragila. She has just progressed the sport of pole vault in the US so much. She has broken down barriers and done things once said impossible for a woman to accomplish.

4) It seems like many girls, in particular, come to pole vaulting from a background in gymnastics, diving or cheerleading...something in which they initially show promise in the areas of strength and acrobatics. Do you have a background in any of these, and if not, what got you started in vaulting?

I actually do not have a background in anything acrobatic. The only sport that I did before the vault was Tae Kwon Do. I just thought that I would try it at my middle school one day and have been hooked ever since.

5) Pole vaulting at the higher levels requires such event-specific training. Can you talk about your coaching situation? Do you receive coaching from someone on your high school staff? Work with club coaches? Or others with special expertise in mentoring vaulters?

I currently have a great situation with coaching. My club coach is Paul Richards, former manufacturer of Altius Poles. He lives in our area and he is just so dedicated to his vaulters. He travels with me almost everywhere I go. Paul is extremely knowledgeable in the event and I trust him to make all the major decisions in my vaulting.

My high school coach, Coach Ellison, is also amazing. She makes sure that I can go to club practices and participate in all the extra indoor meets that I do during our regular track season. And she is also there to keep me motivated and focused.

Occasionally, when Paul cannot make it to a competition, Morry Sanders from Arkansas Vault Club helps me out. Last weekend at the Arkansas High School Invitational was one of those times. Paul and Morry have similar coaching styles so it makes it easy to sometimes be coached by Morry.

6) Have you ever crashed into the box or had a pole break while you were inverted? Do things like that rattle you, or are you able to accept mishaps as part of the deal?

Well...I have not broken a pole, but I have done almost everything else that you could think of. I have landed in the box, landed on concrete instead of the mat [got a minor concussion], hit a standard on the way down, my grip has slipped during a vault and I did a complete flip and got a nice welt, I have landed on the top of my pole and been stabbed by it, and I have been caught in a bungee that broke, and when it broke, it ripped the skin connecting my right ear to my head [used surgical super glue to put it back together].

So yeah, this sport is extremely dangerous and you have to be willing to accept the injuries and scares if you truly want to be good. I try not to be bothered by these little mishaps but I'm not gonna lie, some of them can be hard to get over mentally.

7) I read that you have a superstition about always having at least one of your fingernails painted black when you're competing. Care to share with us where that tradition came from?

Umm... well I got that superstition just from experience. Almost all of my highest clearances and national records [except freshman record] have been cleared while I had on black nail polish. But to tell you the truth I don't even know if really helps.

8) 'Shade' is a pretty cool and unusual first name. Is there a specific story behind that, or a particular reason your parents came up with that name?

Well, there is not a cool story behind this, but here it goes... My parents used to run motorcross events, and my mom was looking through the entries, and she thought she saw the name SHADE and went to my dad and they decided that it would be great! But when my mom went back to look at the name, she actually found out that it said SHAD but it was too late, they had already decided on the name SHADE!

Photos by John Dye (above left) and Vic Sailer (above right)

Interval Sessions Indoors 08