Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Xavier pole vaulter soars through the sky

There still is a glimmer of hope that Arizona’s spring sports season can be salvaged in the wake of the Covid-19 (Corona) virus that is surrounding the globe.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said late last week that the state’s schools will be closed at least until April 10, which is the start of Easter Weekend. A decision would be made around that time whether schools would reopen and whether sports would follow suit.

For those such as Xavier Prep junior athlete Macy Kerwin, a glimmer of hope is better than no hope at all. And even if the season comes to a screeching halt, she has the secure feeling of knowing she will be back as a senior in 2021.


Xavier junior pole vaulter Macy Kerwin (Photo by Don Ketchum).
Kerwin has been soaring through the air as her technique and results in the pole vault improve on a regular basis. She also competes in the 4x100-meter relay and the 100-meter dash.

Kerwin’s focus on the pole vault has been impressive to Xavier head coach Dave Van Sickle. She works with the Xavier team two or three times a week and twice with Nick Hysong, her club coach. Hysong, who won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2000, attended Arizona State and Tolleson High.

“Macy is just learning, but she has good speed and is one of the fastest on our team,’’ Van Sickle said.

“Hysong said she’s one of the fastest vaulters he has coached. He encouraged us to get her out in other events to learn more about how to run.’’

Now it can be difficult to get her to stop working.

“She’s hooked on it, really into it,’’ Van Sickle said. “Sometimes it seems like you have to pry her hands away from the pole. You say to her, “OK, it’s time to go home.’ ’’

Kerwin’s personal best, set earlier this spring, is 8 feet, at a dual met against Gilbert Perry.

“It’s something I can work on year-round,’’ she said.

For much of her early life (about 10 years), Kerwin was a gymnast. She also was in cheer but suffered an injury.

Then she became involved with the pole vault. It was not easy, to be sure. It had more frustration than success in the beginning. Others with less discipline might have quit.

“I wasn’t really clearing heights for weeks,’’ Kerwin said. “It was discouraging. But I kept going to the point where everything began to feel natural.’’

Many pole vaulters are on the taller side and have longer arms and legs. Kerwin is about 5-feet-4.

“It doesn’t always matter how tall you are,’’ she said.

Success comes from learning how fast to run, not a full sprint, and using the proper posture.

When she finally began to clear the bar on a regular basis, “it was like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders,’’ she said. “When you do that, it gives you more confidence.’’

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