Track & Field: Olentangy Berlin pole vaulters were primed for season

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Berlin pole vaulters Ian Poehler (left) and Luke Walden competed in the Division I state indoor track and field meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva and were looking forward to the outdoor season before spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The indoor track and field season was supposed to serve as a warm-up for Olentangy Berlin pole vaulters Ian Poehler and Luke Walden.

Both qualified for the Division I state indoor meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, with Walden, a rising senior, placing seventh by clearing a program-record 14 feet, 6 inches and Poehler, a 2020 graduate, finishing 16th in a personal-best 14-0.

However, spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, leaving Walden to focus on preparing for his senior outdoor season and Poehler to wonder what might have been.

"My sophomore year when I was still at Olentangy, I quit lacrosse and started trying pole vaulting," Poehler said. "It looked insanely fun, so I started doing it.

"I love every second of it. I think the way down (after clearing the bar) is the most fun part of it. You get to fall down and realize that you did something sweet. It's great."

A year ago, Walden and Poehler alternated setting Berlin's outdoor record in the event during the program's inaugural season.

Walden placed ninth (14-2) in the Division II state meet last year after finishing as runner-up (program-record 14-4) at regional. Poehler also was a regional qualifier last season, placing ninth (13-0) as the top four finishers advanced to state.

"Central Ohio was going to be really tough in the pole vault this year, but those two guys were going to be in the running (for a state berth)," coach Anthony Beggrow said. "Both of them were in the state indoor meet, and Luke became the first state-placer for us in either indoor or outdoor seasons. Ian had a great meet as well and he just missed placing."

Walden did what he could to stay in shape during Ohio's stay-at-home order.

"It was hard to train with everything being closed," he said. "I wasn't able to go (to Buckeye Pole Vault Academy in Sunbury) at all, so I did a lot of strength training.

"I was doing some pole runs where you run with the pole and I was using a PVC pipe. You basically measure out your steps and practice like that. I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where I have room to do that."

Walden began pole vaulting in the fall of his freshman year at Olentangy. He believed the skills that he used as a gymnast would help him in the event.

"Through middle school, I did gymnastics at Central Ohio Gymnastics (and Cheerleading)," he said. "I was told that gymnasts usually became good pole vaulters because they have good body awareness and good upper-body strength. The movements I use as a pole vaulter were already there because I was using them in gymnastics."

Berlin pole vault coach Whitney Bice said attention to detail made both successful in the event.

"During indoor season, Ian came to one indoor track meet because he's very active in a lot of school activities," Bice said. "He qualified for state from that one meet and got a PR at state. He knew he had to work on his run, getting his arms up and letting go at the top. He did a lot better at that and that's why he did better and really was looking forward to the season.

"Luke had been working so hard in the offseason and indoor season. He was getting that good extension and was so close to 15 feet. Training in the offseason is big and it takes many, many, many, many jumps to fix things. He'll put in those jumps."

Poehler, who has yet to make a college decision and isn't sure he wants to compete at the next level, enjoyed the friendly rivalry with Walden.

"It was always fun and we really got to push each other," Poehler said. "It was like a tag team to who was going to go the highest. I would get the highest and then he would and then I would again. We pushed each other and had a lot of fun."

Walden would like to continue his pole vaulting career at the collegiate level.

"I need to work on the small things, like getting a little faster and a little stronger," he said. "That's what I need to concentrate on most."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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