Paige Clements took second as a junior in the pole vault at the state track and field meet last season. The highest bar she cleared, 11 feet, 6 inches, matched the Mounds View school record and tied her with the eventual state champion, but she took second on a tie-break.
Now she’s a captain on the Mustangs girls’ team with an eye toward breaking the school record. She’s part of a strong pole vault group that’s grown up together in the program, one that co-head coach Aaron Redman says is ready to shine.
Q: How many years have you competed in track?
A: This is my fourth. I started off in pole vault freshman year and I’ve been doing that ever since at Mounds View and in the offseason. This year they’re trying to have me do high jump but I’m still focusing on pole vault.
Q: You took second at state last year but had the same height as the winner; take me through the tie-break?
A: We all made 11 [feet], 6 [inches] with different misses going into it. So [then] they moved the bar to 11-9. At that first height I had ... I wouldn’t say tragic, but I had a miss that involved me landing headfirst in the box. That shook me up a lot. So my last two attempts weren’t as good as they could have been, which is frustrating because I know I could have made the height. But getting second place at my first state track meet ever, I was very excited.
Q: The school record is 11-6. Can you break that this season?
A: Yeah, I’ve been working really hard toward it. I’ve been training a lot in the offseason with weight-training and sprinting. I’ve done all I can to this point and now it just comes down to the bar.
Q: What’s a misconception people have about pole vaulting?
A: They think that it looks easy because we stand around a lot when we’re waiting for our event to start. Or we’re sitting around at practice waiting for our turn to pole vault. But it takes a lot of work. We’ve been weight-training every day, running, sprinting, doing a lot of gymnastics drills. So it takes a lot more than people understand.
Q: Picture in your head the perfect day for pole vaulting. What does it look like outside?
A: It’d be nice and sunny with no distractions, having your team surround you, with a nice tail wind pushing you toward the pit.
Q: Tell me about your plans for after graduation.
A: I am going to attend Minnesota State University-Mankato, and I actually am going to be pole vaulting for them.
Q: How did you land at Mankato?
A: It was a hard decision. There were other teams and places. But I’ve always loved the area — I have family there. I just think it’s a great facility and I’m planning on majoring in nursing and the school has a great nursing program. The track team obviously was a great draw.
Q: You’re a diabetic. What do you do on meet days to manage it?
A: I just have to make sure that I have enough protein so that my blood sugar will stay sustained throughout the meet. And I have to not eat very complex carbs either because that will send my blood sugar high. Managing the highs and the lows is a lot of different steps.
Q: Are there foods you seek out on days you have a meet?
A: Usually I have a peanut butter sandwich and that has helped me for four years. I guess it works pretty well.
Derek Wetmore is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.