2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Frawley Flies High

Published: May 29, 2009, 8:27 am, by admin

I wrote a story for today’s edition of The Gazette about Air Force junior pole vaulter Nick Frawley. He holds the academy indoor vault record (18 feet, 1 inch) and this weekend is competing at the NCAA Regional meet in Norman, Okla. You can find the story (and the very cool graphic produced by Matt Steiner) here.

One thing that didn’t make it in the paper was a step-by-step chart I came up with for how Fawley executes a vault. I pasted that below and included a video of Frawley’s record-setting indoor vault. It’s extremely cool to watch.

1) The Mental Prep
Frawley has written down a set routine – detailing everything from what he eats to what he thinks on the day of a meet – and he tries to follow it exactly. A crucial part of his routine happens just before he takes off down the runway to perform a vault: He’ll close his eyes and picture a perfect jump from different angles. “I try to see myself doing it, and I think that really fires the same type of neurons that I would use if I was actually completing the jump,” Frawley said.

2) The Approach
After picturing his vault, Frawley sprints down the runway – his run covers 132 feet – carrying the pole in both hands by his right hip. He tries to attain maximum speed. “The faster and more powerful you can be, the better you’re going to be in the pole vault,” he said.

3) Preparing for Takeoff
Frawley morphs from sprinter to vaulter with his last three steps. On his third-to-last-step (with his left foot), he begins to shift the pole upwards. On his second-to-last-step (with his right) the pole is at about his right ear. By his last step (with his left) the pole is high above his head.

4) The Launch
With his final step, Frawley explodes off his left leg into the air – “You want to be quick and powerful,” he said – and simultaneously plants the pole.

5) The Swing
As Frawley gets airborne, he swings his legs forward. “It creates a lot of energy, it moves the pole and it gets your hips up on top of everything.” The pole bends backward toward the ground at first but begins to straighten and cast Frawley up toward the bar. At the same time, the swinging motion inverts Frawley. By the time the pole has bent back and is perpendicular to the ground, Frawley is too – head pointing toward the ground and feet to the sky.

6) The Dismount
With his body and the pole perpendicular to the ground, Frawley begins to twist his body180 degrees so the front of his body is facing the bar. He then lets go of the pole and arches his body over the bar.

7) The Fall
Once Frawley twists, he can see the bar. And he knows if he has cleared it cleanly before he starts to fall back to earth. If he has, it’s time to admire his work. “Because you’re falling from 18 feet, you have some time to look at it and celebrate on the way down,” he said.