SM North pole vaulter’s composure to salvage errant attempt earns him national attention

Connor Bell after completing the successful 9′ attempt at the JV Sunflower League meet last week.

The technical complexity of the pole vault is precisely the thing about the event that attracted SM North freshman Connor Bell to it earlier this spring.

Competitors have to sprint down a runway holding an unwieldy pole, aim the pole for a small box at the base of the cross bar, and then precisely maneuver their body up and over the obstacle using the momentum from the approach and take off.

Which is to say: There’s a lot that can go askew.

So it’s no surprise that Bell found himself in the midst of an imperfect attempt during the junior varsity Sunflower League meet last week. What was surprising was the composure he demonstrated in salvaging the vault — and advancing on to set a new personal record.

On his second attempt at 9′, Bell put his plant down a bit too far, and as he lifted up into the air, he found that his momentum waned quickly as the pole fully rebounded.

“I was actually feeling pretty good about the jump until that point, where things came to a very slow stop,” Bell said. “So at that point you’re thinking, okay, I’m 10 feet up in the air, how do I get down?”

There was enough momentum from the jump that Bell started to spin around at the top of the pole. His plan was to wait until he got in decent position to bail and then hop down onto the landing mat. But as he completed a full 360 degree spin, he found himself perfectly situated to hop over the cross bar. He instinctively jumped over the bar and pushed the pole away from him.

When he landed on the mat, he realized he’d completed a successful — albeit highly unorthodox — attempt.

“I was just trying to get down,” he said. “But I kind of accidentally managed to get over. Coach [Bernie] Wagner came over and gave me a pat on the back and told me nice job.”

Bell’s grandfather happened to be filming the attempt on his phone, and when head track coach Aaron Davidson posted it on Twitter, it went viral, even getting picked up by Sports Illustrated:

Bell advanced in the meet and set a new personal record of 10’6″ — just six inches shy of qualifying to jump at the varsity level. He said he’s stoked to keep working on the craft.

“I love this team. It’s a really amazing group of people and coaches,” he said. “It’s such a great thing to be able to get to do.”