Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grant, the human catapult

For kids in Raymond, their first opportunity for competitive track & field comes in the seventh grade. Grant has always played baseball in the spring on our community rec league(we don't have baseball/softball in our school), but this year, he's decided to try something "new" and he's sticking with the spring sports offering at the school.

I've been bugging him for awhile about what events he planned to attack. Grant is on the quiet side anyway, and at first, I got just a shrug. And then he started to give me a one-word answer, "Distance." I encouraged him in that decision, as he has some very speedy kids in his class that will easily dominate the sprints. And the distance events have historically not been strong for Raymond in the past few years. With Grant's wiry build, I can see him really excelling here, which would be good for him personally, AND his team. A win-win situation.

His brother is a "thrower", but when I mentioned a few possible field events to add to his repertoire, Grant didn't seem too interested. He thought maybe long jump, triple jump, or high jump all might be fun to try.

And then came a surprise announcement two weeks ago. Due to a hefty donation from our local foundation (Thank you, LV Raymond), Raymond would be pole vaulting this year for the first time in.....probably 15 years?? The pole vaulting lane and pit slab were poured 3 years ago when the new track/football stadium was built behind our new high school, but the funds for new mats and equipment have been lacking. Grant's eyes instantly glossed over!! POLE VAULT!!!

Personally, I need to say that the thought of catapulting myself into the air with a very long pole and free-falling from said height is not something that gets me excited. I like to watch it on TV, but I have a very realistic acceptance that I would fall flat on my face if I ever attempted this event. I fall flat on my face enough as it is, but I try to hold those moments to non-spectator events.

But Grant.....he was definitely and instantly staking a claim as a kid that wanted, at the very least, to be at the front of the line to give it a try. Once again, he's not usually real vocal, so if he expresses a solid interest, you have to read that as a jumping up-and-down level of excitement.

Track practice started March 9th, so he's had roughly two weeks. Maybe five of those days he's actually gotten to practice on pole vault. There are only two junior high boys that have opted to participate in this event, and Spencer, the other boy, is over 6 feet tall. The coaches have gotten "certified" at the University of Washington, but there are still some issues with trying to get enough practice time on the event. Grant and Spencer are practicing with the four high school boys that are also "crazy enough" to give it a try. (The crazy part comes with the free-fall after you're over the pole. At least according to the kids.)

In any case, Grant has felt mediocre about his first few practices. Its harder to "get up" than he thought it would be, and the hand-hold on the pole is awkward and different than what he says feels natural. Okay......thats reasonable. And then came a HUGE boost of confidence! He helped at the first high school home meet this week and the WINNING height was 8 foot. Not a great height obviously, but Grant cleared 8 foot, 6 inches in his fourth practice!!! And all the sudden, his doubts in himself started to disappear. He might actually be able to be competitive at this!!

So, as of this writing, he is three days from his first meet. It is still questionable as to whether Raymond will be allowed to vault at this first meet, due to their overall low number of practices on the event. (The restrictions for pole vault are higher than any other event. Good thing.) However, he is a committed human catapult now, and is applying himself to it with gusto. Frankly, I wish the landing pad was bigger. Like a LOT bigger, as my view from the parking lot doesn't look like he ever lands in the middle. And why do we require our children to wear bike helmets, but not helmets for pole vault? Think about that one for me?

But, then again, his smile makes it all worth my "Mom-worrying." He's having a blast! So he will be running a distance event or two, and competing as a human catapult.

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