Tuesday, January 20, 2009

" ... when the problems fix, the heights will improve"

University of Minnesota pole vaulter Alicia Rue's 2009 season is off to a great start. The junior from Plymouth opened her season two weekends ago with an NCAA provisional qualifying clearance of 13-3 1/2 at the Northwest Open.

Last Saturday, at the Minnesota Open, Rue cleared 14-4 to set a new PR and school record and punch an automatic ticket to the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas in March. The photo above, by Chris Milton, shows Rue's 14-4 clearance.

To learn a little more about Rue's success, we talked to her event coach
Caroline White.

DtB: Alicia's off to a great start in 2009. Are you surprised or did expect big things early?

White: I am expecting big things of Alicia this year. I don't have specific ideas for when certain heights will happen. I am more focused on the technique changes we need to make. I know when the problems fix, the heights will improve. Each athlete is so unique as far as how quickly they can make changes that it's pretty hard to set a concrete time table. We definitely have a plan, and hierarchy of what needs to change and in which order. Saturday she took the first steps, in competition, to make one of those major technique changes. The change Saturday was slight, and the pay-off was fairly large, so we're both feeling pretty positive about the season ahead.

DtB: To what do you attribute Alicia's recent improvements?

White: Just like any collegiate athlete, she's maturing both as a person and as an athlete. We're now in our 3rd year together so our communication is much more seamless and we're working well as a team. She has also gotten continually stronger since becoming a Gopher and is now as fit as she ever has been. Because of this, she's now able to start to make some of the technical changes that she physically couldn't in the past. Coach Bingle has spent a lot of time with the pole vaulters this year working on their sprinting and approaches and that is beginning to pay off for the entire squad as well.

DtB: For Alicia to go even higher, what are some of the elements that will need to come together for her?

White: I can't imagine that we'll ever stop working on any particular part of the vault, but our main focus right now is the timing and control through the top end of her jump. She tends to hesitate after her rock back just long enough to cause a big loss of energy, and height, in her vault. It's not the only problem, but we feel it's the biggest one that she is capable of fixing in a relatively short period of time. We've still got a long way to go, but 4.37m [14-4] in January suggests to us we're on the right track.

Photo by Chris Milton/Flight Deck Athletics.

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