GREENFIELD — She felt awkward and out of place. The technique and drills were tedious and boring. Emily Jones remembers the painful first days of pole vault practice four years ago as a freshman.
But none of it stopped her from falling in love.
Although uncomfortable, Jones’ first attempts at clearing the bar as a raw rookie weren’t a complete disaster. That, Greenfield-Central head pole vault coach Greg Arnold said, was a win in itself.
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“We were like, ‘we’re going to have a pole vaulter,’” Arnold said. “We noticed on day one she could follow instructions well and get it done.”
Jones cleared 8 feet that season. Now, two and a half feet later, Jones has become one of the top pole vaulters in the state. She cleared a personal-best 10-06 at the Hoosier State Relays last Friday at DePauw University and is seeded third with four other girls entering this Saturday’s HSR Finals at Indiana University.
After waiting until almost 10 p.m. to compete on Friday, Jones slowly worked her way up to her previous best height — indoor or outdoor — of 10-03, which broke the indoor school record, before topping 10-06. She had three solid attempts at 10-09, Arnold said, but used a larger pole on the last two.
“Her approach was on all night,” Arnold said, who has coached at the school since 2006.
As a junior, Jones finished 25th at her first IHSAA State Finals after clearing 10-0.
As a freshman, however, Jones remember practicing inside with the Marian University pole vaulters, who shared facilities with the team at Greenfield-Central. Arnold and one of Marian’s coaches, who Jones said she was lucky enough to learn from, were watching nearby.
“They were like, ‘oh my gosh,’” Jones explained. “I was like, ‘what, did I mess up or something?’.
Nope. It was the opposite, actually. One of the most difficult portions of the pole vault technique depends on the athlete’s “drag” leg, which is the leg they jump off. In order to get more height, without making their body smaller and slowing the pole, athletes must keep the drag leg long. Human instinct usually says otherwise.
“I thought it was so much fun,” Jones recalled. “Even when you get to fall a half second longer, that is the thrill of it. I told my coach my freshman year that I want to set the bar so high that no one will ever be able to break it.”
Although the combination of skill and drive is valuable in pole vaulting, it doesn’t compare to the mindset needed to successfully clear the bar.
“It takes so much mental strength, people don’t realize it,” Jones said, who was raised on a farm and also participates in 4-H.
Even though the well-rounded student athlete has jumped higher than any female in school history, she might be more impressive outside of the track. Jones was recently awarded the Lilly Scholarship and has a 3.99 GPA. She plans to pole vault at Hanover College.
“I wanted to find a coach who was like Coach Arnold,” Jones said of her decision attend Hanover. “(Arnold) is full of jokes and has little things that make us laugh.”
This season, though, Jones has her sights set on a third consecutive county title. And at the sectional meet this season — she was second last year — Jones is hoping to top a longtime rival, Shelbyville’s Erin Diemer, who has been jumping 11 feet since her freshman year. The two will meet again on Saturday.
With a longer approach this season, for the sole purpose of gaining more speed and momentum, it is not out of the question for Jones to soar higher.
“(Jones) has done everything it takes to get better,” Arnold said. “She is always in the weight room with her strength and fitness class. She jumps in summer and winter meets. Her work ethic is what has got her here.”
Greenfield-Central’s boys distance medley relay team will also compete at the indoor HSR meet on Saturday. In Jones’ event, senior Maddie Holland of Madison Consolidated is seeded first with a jump of 12 feet and Diemer is second at 11-06.
“Last year there wasn’t my best day,” Jones said. “I would love to have some redemption.”
Emily Jones, Greenfield-Central
Sport: Pole Vaulting
Personal Best: Program best 10-06
Junior Season: Jones won the county meet, finished second at the sectional and was 25th at state
Other: 4-H, Lilly Scholarship
Next Level: Will pole vault at Hanover College