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Interval Session #47 - Nico Weiler

April 17, 2008

California pole vaulter Nico Weiler exploded onto the US prep scene last year as German exchange student enrolled as a junior at Los Gatos High School CA. After clearing 17-06.25 at his 2007 California sectional meet, he won the state CIF championship and finished the year as the #2-ranked vaulter behind graduating Arkansas star Spencer McCorkel. From there, it was on to Ostrava, Czech Republic, where he won World Youth gold representing his homeland of Germany.

At that point, it appeared the US prep ranks might have seen the last of the talented aerialist, as his exchange visa was only good for one year. But after some research and lobbying, he was granted a last-minute waiver to return to the US for a senior year at Los Gatos. From there, the campaign has been eye-opening, including indoor wins at the Reno Pole Vault Summit, the Simplot Games and NSIC, and a meet and personal record 17-4 at last weekend's Arcadia Invitational.

DyeStat Assistant editor Dave Devine hits the pit to hang out with a young man who swears it's the Americans who have the funny accent.

1) Congratulations on a great series at Arcadia. You mentioned afterwards that you've never jumped like that in your life. What do you think made the difference on Saturday? Was it the weather? The support of the crowd? Better technical proficiency? A combination of things?

I think everything played a major role. The huge crowd got me really pumped up and I felt like I was flying down the runway. The overall conditions, such as temperature, wind and runway were perfect. The people who helped out with the meet did a great job. I felt great and finally got a few things straightened out such as take-off and run. I guess all in all it was just the right time for me.

2) It seems like you've become a well-known and popular athlete in California track circles, and that you've gotten to know a lot of people in the US pole vaulting community. Can you talk about what that's been like, finding support here and making those connections?

These connections are my favorite part about pole vaulting. I like to speak with people from different parts of the country and hear their views. This was one of the main reasons I came to America. Every pole vaulter I have met in my life is a great person and is really fun to talk to and to hang out with.

3) After you won at Arcadia, there was a long line of high school kids waiting to have you autograph their shirts, sneakers and meet programs. Is it a strange feeling, having students your own age eager to have your signature? Have you experienced that at other meets, or was this the first time?

It is great. I was really happy that they helped out so much with the pole vault pit and setting up. Giving them my autograph was an honor for me. I have really enjoyed that and I got to talk to quite a few of these guys and girls and I really enjoyed it.

4) Many people, yourself included, wondered if you'd be able to return to the United States for a second year of school at Los Gatos. Can you briefly describe how that came about and what steps were necessary?

I was really lucky. I did not expect to return after I had an overview of how things worked, but Jack Little, my host father here in the U.S. explored every single possible solution and made it possible for me to return to Los Gatos High School.

5) You mentioned that you only found out you would be returning to the US four days before school started. Was it hard to make that transition, mentally and physically, from thinking you'd be going to school in Germany to attending classes again at Los Gatos?

Yes. I learned about the possibility the Thursday before school started and I returned the Sunday before school started. It was a great effort to make that possible, but my parents as well as my "American Parents" made that possible for me.

6) Can you explain your coaching situation? Do you continue to receive coaching from someone in Germany, as well as the Los Gatos HS coach in California? If so, how do you balance the various suggestions?

Brandon Vance is my coach at Los Gatos High School. He is a great coach and he knows what I have to do in order to jump high. The coaches in Germany help me whenvever I go back there and I am really greatful for that. It always helps to have an extra pair of eyes looking out for you.

7) For someone who has never experienced it, what does it feel like to fall 18-feet to the pole vault mat? How aware do you have to be of your body's position as you tumble from that height, and have you ever had any accidents or injuries while vaulting?

It is the greatest feeling someone can have. It is like jumping on a trampoline but a lot higher and a lot more fun. It does not hurt to fall on the pit. It is really soft. I have had some smaller injuries but never anything serious.

8) What's the best part about studying abroad in California? What has been most challenging? If you could correct one misconception Americans have about Germans, what would it be?

The best part about studying abroad is meeting the people and learning about the American way of life. The most challenging part of my experience has been being away from my friends and family in Germany. The internet is great for allowing me to share a lot of my experiences with them. A common misconception about Germans is that all of us speak with an accent. That is simply not true. While being here I have discovered that all Americans have one. :)

Photos: (top) Kirby Lee, imageofsport.com, (bottom) Donna Dye

Interval Sessions Oudoors 08