After completing his pole vault on March 2, junior Martin Desmery stood up, pointed to his teammates and took a bow.
He had just broken Ithaca College’s pole vault record by one centimeter. During the 2016–17 men’s indoor track and field season, then-junior David Dorsey tied Andrew Brown’s 2010 record of 4.70 meters.
“My first thought when I broke the record was, ‘Hell, yeah, and I wonder if anyone else will do it,’” Desmery said.
Pole–vault coach Matt Scheffler said he believed Desmery would break the school record this season because of how much Desmery has improved.
“I talked with Andrew Brown, who is the former record holder and still has the outdoor record at 4.80, and I told him, ‘This guy is going to go over 15 feet very soon and is going to take shots at the record,’” he said. “I called him a couple times after practices and told him that.”
During the All-Atlantic Region Track and Field Conference Championships on March 2, the men’s track and field team had four of the eight pole–vaulters try to break the school record.
“There was a meet earlier this season when Connor Florczyk jumped 4.50 and I jumped 4.50, and we were all so hyped that there were two of us at that height,” Dorsey said. “Now, at the championship meet, there were four of us jumping for a school record. That’s just absolutely nuts.”
Going into the meet, the four vaulters had a small rivalry going to see who could break the record.
“I think we all get really high–energy and hyped up when we are all performing well, so I think we were all jumping really well that day,” Dorsey said. “It was a really fun meet to be a part of.”
Out of the six colleges that compete in the Liberty League for men’s track and field, Desmery is the fourth–highest in the pole vault. Union College and the University of Rochester both have a record of 4.52 meters. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s record is 4.86 meters, while St. Lawrence University’s is 4.89 meters. The Rochester Institute of Technology’s record is 5.16 meters.
Desmery started competing in the pole vault during his freshman year at New Paltz High School in New Paltz, New York, at the recommendation of one of his friends. He then tried the sport and stuck with it.
“I really like the community that we have,” Desmery said. “It’s not something that everyone does or can do. It’s fun to do. It takes a lot of effort and time, and a lot of people can’t put in the time to get good.”
Desmery’s personal best his freshman year of college was 3.65 meters, and his sophomore year personal best was 4.27.
Dorsey said it is not normal for athletes in college to improve this much. He said it is more common when vaulters are still learning how to pole–vault because they are trying to master their technique.
Scheffler said that Desmery has improved drastically from when he came to college.
“When he came here, he had good technique, but he was gripping so low that he didn’t have the confidence to grip higher,” Scheffler said. “He was a fast guy, but he also wouldn’t run very fast. I think just building up that confidence, especially last year, was a big break for him.”
To improve by 1 meter, Desmery said, he changed how he practiced this season.
“I really focused on my speed on the runway because I have always had pretty good technique, but it paid off to focus on how fast I am and how much energy I put into it,” he said.
During practice, there are drills the athletes do to work on the motions of the vault. On the gymnastics rings, they simulate the swing that happens after the take–off and do inversions on a portable high bar.
After practice, Desmery said, he goes home and does additional cardio workouts. He said he practices for at least 20 hours per week.
Scheffler said another reason why Desmery has improved is that Desmery studies the event.
“He is here for school, but he is definitely here for pole vault as well,” Scheffler said. “He knows who the world record holders are and who the world leaders are at any point. When you have that much dedication to the sport, you are going to be successful.”
Dorsey said he has seen Desmery grow as a pole–vaulter and as a leader. When Scheffler is unable to attend practice because he is also the track and field head coach for Lansing High School in Lansing, New York, Desmery steps into the coaching role.
“With drills, it’s great for everyone’s form and things like that — for knowing what they need to work on and making sure that our practices are effective,” Dorsey said. “It creates a good environment for us to compete in and practicing in when we have the right mix of focus and hard work, but also having fun and enjoying pole vault.”
Dorsey said he has high expectations for Desmery going into each meet.
“I have a video of the first time he cleared 14 feet, and we all thought it was absolutely nuts,” Dorsey said. “Now, I would be surprised if there is a meet where he doesn’t jump that.”
Coming into the outdoor season, Desmery said he is hoping to break that record because it is only 10 centimeters higher.
“I’m hoping that if I’ve improved this much this year, I can improve that much more and break it again,” he said.