Girls Track & Field: Olentangy Orange Pioneers’ Sara Borton finds perfect fit in pole vault

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Orange senior Sara Borton has set a goal of earning a return trip to the Division I state meet after placing seventh two years ago. Borton will compete in the pole vault at the University of Tennessee.

Sara Borton didn’t care much for the pole vault the first time she tried it, but that quickly changed.

The senior for the Olentangy Orange girls track and field team didn’t start vaulting until the summer before her sophomore year, but placed seventh in the Division I state meet the following spring with an effort of 12 feet. She expects to have a return performance this spring.

Borton has cleared 12-9 and hopes to keep moving the standards up higher and higher this season. However, she almost never had a chance to excel in the event.

“I tried it and didn’t like it at first,” she said. “It was too complicated. There are a lot of factors that go into vaulting. But I kept going, and I really started to like it.”

Borton grew up as a gymnast, but left that sport at 9 years old because of ankle problems. She was talked into pole-vaulting by cousins Tyler and Zach Borton, both of whom competed with the Ohio State men’s track program.

She believes gymnastics played a big part in her quick success in the event, including her signing with the University of Tennessee.

“Gymnastics helped me with body awareness and in my explosion in my takeoff and acceleration,” she said. “You could be flipping on a beam that’s like four inches wide, and that takes a lot of mental strength. That helps in the pole vault.”

Jay Mathy, the pole-vault coach at both Orange and Olentangy, said it wasn’t a surprise Borton quickly found success.

“Sara is gifted in the big three of pole-vaulting,” Mathy said. “She is super strong, very fast and she has the ability to learn a skill and never forget it.

“She has put together progressions faster than your average athlete. That doesn’t happen often. Some people have that knack, and Sara has it.”

Borton is 5-1, and she believes being short has given her an advantage over taller opponents.

“The taller girls have some advantage because I have to be really explosive at take off and they have like an extra foot on me,” she said. “But I don’t have so much length to my legs, so it’s easier for me to ball up so I can invert as compared to other people with longer legs. Swinging can be a bit more difficult for them.”

The 2020 spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but Borton would have missed it anyway. She was slated to have surgery to repair her left ankle before the season was halted. After the surgery, she had five months of rehabilitation before returning to the track.

“After years of sports, I overused my ankles and I had surgery,” she said. “Every time I would run, there would be this shocking pain in my leg and I would try to push through it, but it got worse.

“After coming back from surgery I wrestled, so I wasn’t full-time pole-vaulting. That didn’t bother me much because I had my (personal record) in our first big meet at (the) Berlin (Invitational on April 9).”

Coach Adam Walters wasn’t surprised by Borton clearing 12-9 early in the season.

“Sara is a determined kid, and she is competitive at anything she sets her mind to,” Walters said. “She competes year-round at Buckeye (Pole Vault Academy in Sunbury) and is always working to get better.”

Borton, who said she works with Austin Hicks at Buckeye Pole Vault Academy, expects to continue to go higher and higher.

“I want to have more consistency,” said Borton, who has a 3.75 GPA and wants to major in biology at Tennessee with the hopes of going to medical school. “I want to go back to state and go over 11-6 or 12. I want to hit bigger poles with confidence because that’s what it’s going to take to have higher heights.”

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