DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — In search of a Penobscot Valley Conference record in the pole vault at the PVC Small School Championships on Monday, Orono High School standout David Frederick spent a lot of time standing around.
Enough time for the entire running of the 1,600-meter race walk (almost 12 minutes) and then some while his attempts progressed from 13 feet, 4 inches to 14-3.
Each attempt lasted only a few seconds, about four seconds of running and two in the air.
He spent his extensive down time on basically two things.
“Obviously, staying warm,” he said of the sunny but cool and windy day at Foxcroft Academy, “but I also have to make sure I keep on thinking about what I need to do with my technique, what was wrong with my last jump and how to correct it.”
Orono coach Chris Libby helped him with his adjustments, taking a moment from his other duties to watch Frederick jump, then telling his vaulter what he thought needed fixing or adjusting.
Setting the bar each time and checking its height are exacting processes that have to be done each time the bar is raised, to make it official. After the height is confirmed, the entire structure holding up the bar has to be slid back into place.
If the bar continues to be raised, the structure has to be moved back slightly farther to allow the top of the vaulter’s arc to occur as he or she clears the bar. The vaulter decides how far forward or back to move the structure.
If it’s too close to the pit where the vaulter sets the pole to start the vault, the competitor likely will hit the bar on the way up. Too far back, and he’ll hit it on the way down.
With a smile afterward, Frederick said of his adjustments, “Some meets it works, some meets it doesn’t.”
He could afford to smile then, because his vault of 13-4 broke the mark of 13-3 set the year before by Tristan Wortman of Brewer.
After that, Frederick, who had a seed height of 14 feet, had the bar placed at 13-9, which he cleared on his second try.
He next tried to clear 14-3, which would be a personal record, but he missed twice and was done.
As for Monday’s event itself, his 13-9 vault bettered the height of the runners-up by 3-9 and earned Frederick his first gold medal of the day. If he matches or surpasses his winning height in Saturday’s Class C state championships at Foxcroft, he will break the state record of 13-8 1/4 set by Hein Brutsaert of Orono in 1984.
And it’s not even his favorite event.
“I really like high jump, but I was too short to be good at it, so I figured if I had a pole, my height wouldn’t matter,” said a laughing Frederick, who said he was 5 feet 2 inches as a freshman high jumper. He now stands about 5-10, he said.
“I started pole vaulting the summer before my freshman year,” he said. He stopped high jumping as a freshman.
The senior also won the javelin Monday and ran the third leg on the runner-up 4-by-400-meter relay team.
“I’ve done pretty much all of the events [during his high school career],” said Frederick. “I just do the ones I like best now.”
He likes pole vault and javelin because technique is more important than brawn.
“If you just try to force the javelin, it falls flat,” he said.
He plans to continue with track and field in college, but not right away.
“The following year ,” he said. “Marine Reserves to pay for college, then after that, WPI [Worcester Polytechnical Institute]. The school’s approach to education is more my type, more hands on.”
“And also, they’ve got a pretty good track team,” he added, smiling again.
Frederick, who just turned 18, said he chose the Marine Reserves because “I’ve always challenged myself. If I had gone into any of the other branches, I would felt like I was taking the easy way out.”
He’ll start basic training in August and spend three months in boot camp, then start his job training.
“It’s a technical job, so that will last most of the rest of the year,” Frederick said.
After that, it’s one weekend a month and a two-week training session each summer that could take him to other parts of the world.
He still has pole vault goals that might do that, too.
“I really hope to go 14-3 by the end of this season,” he said.
“Seventeen feet is what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Trials,” said Frederick. “That’s my long-term goal. … If I got that far, it would be pretty incredible.”
That road starts with Saturday’s state meet, which begins at 10 a.m.
Orono teammate Lilli Koffman won the girls’ 1,600 and 3,200 runs at the PVCs and she has also run the 800 some, but she’s happy to stay on the ground as opposed to Frederick.
“Distance is my favorite,” she said. “I pole vaulted last year, but I haven’t done it this year.”