Viking vaulters make a huge splash in Poulsbo

POULSBO — Pole vaulting is fun, North Kitsap track athletes say, if you can stand the water up your nose. Coach Mark Lunsford, who coaches the vaulters three days a week, occasionally drives the athletes to Bangor, where they don swimsuits and goggles to hone their technique underwater in the Navy base’s pool. “The underwater part was weird (at first),” vaulter Rachel Walters said.

POULSBO Pole vaulting is fun, North Kitsap track athletes say, if you can stand the water up your nose.

Coach Mark Lunsford, who coaches the vaulters three days a week, occasionally drives the athletes to Bangor, where they don swimsuits and goggles to hone their technique underwater in the Navy base’s pool.

“The underwater part was weird (at first),” vaulter Rachel Walters said.

The trips to Bangor are just one of the techniques, from swimming to songs, that Lunsford invents, borrows, or begs to help the pole vaulters find success — and fun — in the demanding sport.

While working with athletes in Sequim, Lunsford helped them swing across a barn floor on a rope, then fling themselves into soft piles of hay. At North Kitsap, he developed a “pole vaulter’s song” that he set to the tune of the Army Rangers’ theme song.

Lundford stresses that he always make sure the athletes are safe.

But after that, anything goes.

“I’ll do anything. As long as (the practice) can’t hurt kids, as long as it’s legal, do it,” said Lunsford. “Have a blast.”

The Vikings are clearly having a blast this year, with the three-person vaulting team finishing near the top during meets and setting new records.

Rachel Walters set a new school record when she vaulted 8’6” against South Kitsap on April 24.

She kept up the pace against Port Angeles, when she topped eight feet again on May 2.

Walters’ effort is all the more surprising, considering this is her first year pole vaulting. Previously a gymnast, she decided to give another sport a shot this year.

Her effort has been matched by Mark Sargeant, who is in his second year of vaulting and has claimed first place in two meets and second place in another two.

Sargeant played linebacker on the football team, but was introduced to a new kind of worry during pole vaulting.

“The first time. you run, it feels like it (the pole) is going to shoot you onto the ground,” he said.

After overcoming his initial fear, Sargeant found the fun in pole vaulting.

“Falling after you cross the bar … that’s great,” Sargeant said.

Sargeant is a senior, but Walters, a junior, will return to vault next year.

For now, the vaulters and the rest of the North Kitsap track athletes are concerned with the league meet, which will be held today and tomorrow in Bremerton.

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