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Vaulter happy with landing

Wed., April 29, 2009

Stan Kerr, surveying track practice at Woodward Field the other day, gazed down at the pole vaulters and shook his head.

“It’s always ‘just one more jump’ with those guys,” Eastern Washington’s head men’s coach said. “They’d have me turn the lights on if they could.”


“Absolutely,” junior Ben Cogdill said. “It’s like you’re always trying to end on the ‘perfect’ jump – but if you get a perfect jump, you just want to try and repeat it and keep feeling it. It’s a never-ending thing.”

So, then, why do vaulters get pinned with a reputation for being flaky, a descriptive usually not associated with long hours and the quest for perfection?

“That’s a good question,” Cogdill said.

Something for him to ponder the next time he’s upside down 16 feet in the air.

While he’s at it, Cogdill can ponder another distinction: He’s the only collegiate vaulter in the Northwest to hold school records at two different four-year institutions. Already the indoor and outdoor record holder at Portland State, Cogdill transferred to Eastern last fall and in just his fourth indoor meet cleared 16-8 to add 3 inches to Todd Freitag’s 20-year-old record.

Cogdill will take aim at some other standards Friday at EWU’s 38th Pelluer Invitational – Freitag’s meet and school outdoor record of 16-7, and the Woodward facility mark of 16-3/4.

But mostly he’ll look around with gratitude at where he’s landed.

Cogdill was a state champion at Estacada High School in Oregon an hour outside Portland, but discovered he’d no-heighted on his first choice of a college.

“I’m not a big-city guy,” he said. “There really wasn’t a college feel there – it was just this place in the middle of the city. The athletic program wasn’t all that good and my pole vault coach left at the end of the year, so that kind of decided it for me.”

He looked at Kansas State and Sacramento State, but couldn’t shake the feel he had on his visit to EWU.

“Here, once I’m done with jumping, it’ll still be a good fit for me,” said Cogdill, an elementary education major. “There I’d only be going for athletics. I wanted to go somewhere I’d be happy even if I didn’t have sports – and at Portland State without track I would have been miserable. This is a place that would allow me to do well.”

He did well at EWU – quickly. Pole vault coach Eric Allison didn’t feel the need to tear down Cogdill’s technique and start over as often happens, and in addition to his 16-8 clearance Cogdill jumped 16-6 in another meet and was third in the Big Sky indoor championships. Moving outdoors, however, has brought new challenges.

“I’ve always trained indoors, even during outdoor season,” said Cogdill, who worked at Rick Baggett’s club facility in Oregon City because he didn’t have a high school vault coach. “The wind can play some games with you and down in Oregon; we don’t have quite as much wind as there is up here.”

Sounds as if he knows what an average Pelluer has in store.

All in the timing

Luke Lemenager doesn’t like to start off too fast – but by his own reckoning, he’s three years late.

Washington State’s junior 800-meter runner got over a big mental hurdle earlier this season when he ran 1 minute, 49.92 seconds at UCLA – the fastest Cougars two-lapper since Bernard Lagat was on campus a decade ago.

“I was supposed to do that in high school,” said Lemenager, who had a 1:51.2 best at Tahoma High School. “At least that’s what I told myself.”

But Lemenager has struggled finding the right tempo for his races, which generally includes a 54-second first lap.

“If you try too hard and get too excited in a race, you come through in 52 and then it’s, ‘Oh no,’ ” he said.

But the sub-1:50 at UCLA has been such a relief that Lemenager relegated himself to the role of a rabbit at last week’s Duane Hartman Invitational in Spokane, trying to tow some teammates under NCAA regional qualifying.

“It just makes the rest of the season easier,” he said. “Now I don’t have to worry about trying to get the regional mark against Austin Abbott in the UW dual, or doing it in prelims of the Pac-10s – because if you don’t do it then, then you’re not going to make the finals.”

Bell lap

WSU’s Courtney Kirkwood took a stab at the pentathlon indoors, but there may be no denying her calling. The Othello, Wash., freshman launched the javelin 170-8 at the Hartman, making her the second WSU thrower to top 170 feet in as many weeks. “Today there was no doubt she was a javelin thrower,” WSU throws coach Debra Farwell said. … Rogers graduate Rebekah Noble was back on the track last weekend for Oregon – sort of. Coming back from foot surgery, she rabbited a section of the women’s 800 at the Oregon Relays.

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