By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
For pole vaulters, it’s a matter of progression.
“The longer you pole vault, you progress to a height,” said Michael Juergens. “You get used to going 10 feet, then 12 feet, then 15 feet, and you get used to falling 10 feet, 12 feet, 15 feet.
“And there is no better feeling than falling from 17 feet. It was amazing.”
Last Saturday Juergens became the sixth pole vaulter in Missouri Southern history to clear 17 feet during the Dave Suenram PSU Gorilla Classic.
“My first two attempts were OK ... all right vaults. I just didn’t get over the bar,” he said. “The third attempt, I was going in pretty confident. I knew if I did everything Coach was telling me to do, it would happen. I had a fairly good takeoff, and once I got upside down, I pulled with everything I had left and got over pretty easy. It was a pretty easy clear.
“My whole team was sitting there watching. It was pretty awesome. They all wanted it as bad as I did. Once I cleared, they went pretty wild.”
Juergens, a senior, is the first Lion to go 17 feet since Jacob Williams went 17-1 indoors in 2008. Matt Campbell holds the school record both indoors (17-1.75) and outdoors (17-4.50) and has cleared 17 feet nine times — five outdoors and four indoors.
“We’ve been a pole vaulting school for a long time,” Lions coach Tom Rutledge said. “We haven’t had 17-footers come through all at once like they did when we went 1-2-3 at nationals (outdoors at Abilene Christian in 2005).
“We have the facilities. We’ve also had good coaches to coach them, even myself sometimes. Coach (Bryan) Schiding is doing a good job with them. Our other vaulters are coming around. Some of them struggled indoors, but they are starting to come around for outdoors.”
Juergens’ first exposure to Missouri Southern came his senior year at St. Clair High School when he competed at an open indoor meet at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
“There is not an indoor facility anywhere close where I lived, and I wanted to get a little warmup for the outdoor season,” Juergens said. “I came to the high school meet here and I guess I caught Coach Rutledge’s eye. He was like in my face, saying this is a school for pole vaulters ... Missouri Southern has a good history in pole vaulting.”
Juergens began pole vaulting in junior high school.
“My coach there was a pole vaulter in college,” Juergens said, “and he noticed I had most of the attributes of a pole vaulter. I’m somewhat tall, fairly strong, and I could jump fairly far. He started me on it, and I had success that first year.”
As a freshman with the Lions, he went 15-7 indoors and 15-10 at the MIAA Outdoor Championships. He cleared 16 feet during the indoor season his sophomore year and 16-6.75 outdoors.
Last month he placed third in the NCAA Division II indoor championships, clearing 16-8.75. His best during the current outdoor season was 16-5.50 before last week.
“I have jumped at (17 feet) at practice a few times, and I jumped at it one time in a meet,” Juergens said. “This was the first time where I had a pretty good feeling I was going to get it. I was jumping with the biggest pole I every jumped on in my life. That’s part of the reason I was so confident. ... The bigger the pole, the stiffer it is and the higher you can jump. It’s also a longer pole, which is much harder.”
Juergens’ next action is Saturday when the Lions compete in the Dewey Allgood Invitational at Missouri S&T in Rolla.
“I’m proud of him,” Rutledge said. “He’d never been on a 16-foot pole before. They are harder to bend, but they throw you better up on top. As he keeps moving through poles, it helps the others, too, when they see what he has accomplished.
“Michael’s confidence level is there. He’s sticking the pole. I look for great things to happen for him. He almost won indoors, but the other two pulled it out on their last vaults.”
Missouri Southern 17-foot pole vaulters
17-4.50 Matt Campbell, 2006 Emporia State twilight
17-2.75 Matt Campbell, 2005 NCAA Championships
17-1.50 Matt Campbell, 2005 MIAA Championships
17-1.00 Chris Turner, 2005 MSSU Lionbacker meet
17-0.75 Ben Brainard, 1997 Emporia State Relays
Ben Brainard, 1997 NCAA Championships
Matt Campbell, 2006 Wichita Track Classic
17-0.00 Matt Campbell, 2004 PSU/Wendy’s Invitational
Michael Juergens, 2013 David Suenram PSU Gorilla Classic
17-1.75 Matt Campbell, 2005 Arkansas Tyson Invitational
17-1.50 Matt Campbell, 2005 NCAA Championships
17-1.00 Matt Campbell, 2006 Arkansas Tyson Invitational
Jacob Williams, 2008 Prairie Wolf Invitational
17-0.75 Seth Isringhausen, 2002 Oklahoma Sooner Invitational
Matt Campbell, 2006 Arkansas Invitational
— Source: Missouri Southern sports information department