She’s already had a stellar season, but Kristin School Year 13 pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart is hoping for further success over the next couple of months.
Last month in Hastings Olivia jumped a personal best of 4.40m, which was just .05 metres away from Rio bronze medallist and training partner Eliza McCartney's New Zealand U18 record.
Next up for Olivia is the Vertical Pursuit event next Wednesday in Auckland, alongside Eliza and other vaulters such as Canadian Alysha Newman and US athlete Morgann Leleux. Four days later Olivia and the others contest the Auckland Track Challenge on the North Shore near Olivia’s home.
What’s it like soaring so high?
“The feeling off the top of the pole is seriously amazing, if you do it properly, it just feels like you’re flying for that split second, “ Olivia told College Sport Media. “It’s what it’s all about when you get over that bar.”
Olivia has brought a gymnastics background to her sport.
“The foundations of gym teach us so much for pole vaulting, the two are very similar, and having the awareness of where you are is really helpful.”
“Lots of pole vaulters are former gymnasts and I first got into it through a gymnast friend.”
How much of pole vaulting is mental?
“Probably 80-90 percent of it is mental, and then there are other aspects of technique, strength and speed that come into it. Being in the zone, knowing what you have got to do and just focusing on what’s in front of you is what makes you have a good competition.”
Following the competitions later this month, Olivia turns her attention to meets in New Zealand and Australia.
“In March we have got the Auckland Championships and then the New Zealand Nationals in Hamilton and then the Australian Nationals at the end of March,” so it’s pretty full on.
“In April and May we’ll be here training and then going into June and July we’re going to Europe, for a training camp in Germany and then a few competitions to get myself out there a bit more.”
All the while she’ll still be doing her Level 3 NCEA schoolwork of course.
Her training regime is busy too.
“We do actual pole vaulting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and also leg weights after pole vaulting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we do running and sprint training and upper body weights and then Fridays is gymnastics skills.”
The poles themselves vary in weight and length.
“The whole group has a range of poles, which range in length from 12 to 17 feet. We pick whichever one suits our take-off. So the bigger the take-off you have the bigger poles you use.”
“Right now I am on 14 feet or 14.6’ feet poles so hopefully I keep progressing up those lengths.”
Elite pole vaulters can own and travel with up to 10 poles, but in Olivia’s case its coach Jeremy McColl who organises the poles for the group to use. Jeremy is also Eliza McCartney’s coach and the poles that Olivia are currently on are Eliza’s former ones.
Long-term, Olivia said that she’s working towards qualifying for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. “I have already got the B standard, which is 4.40m, so going for that A standard of 4.58m is a goal.
“Then Tokyo 2020 is the bigger goal.”
Eliza won bronze at the Olympics with a jump of 4.80m and the qualifying height was 4.55m.
Good luck Olivia McTaggart.
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