Athletics: McCartney wins bronze with record-breaking vault

By Campbell Burnes

Takapuna Grammar School student Eliza McCartney holds the national women's pole vault record.
Takapuna Grammar School student Eliza McCartney holds the national women's pole vault record.

Meet Eliza McCartney, New Zealand's top female pole vaulter.

Last month, the Takapuna Grammar School senior student and prefect picked up a rare medal for New Zealand at the world junior track and field championship in Oregon, United States. That was a bronze, one place higher than her result in Ukraine last year.

Even more notably, she broke the national senior women's pole vault record of 4.40m, previously held by Melina Hamilton. McCartney's new mark is 4.45m.

Not bad for a 17-year-old student who was laid low by glandular fever earlier this year, right when she could have been qualifying for the Commonwealth Games.

"I went over there with a mindset of wanting to really just finish off the season properly because I hadn't jumped any higher than my PB from last season. I wasn't necessarily worried about what place I got, but wanted to have a performance I was happy with," she says.

There's no question she was "stoked" with her vault and the resultant medal.

Now she can see a pathway through to the 2015 world University Games, the world championships, and even the Rio Olympic Games 2016, not to mention the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Pole vaulting is a sport where one can mature later, so McCartney is adamant her best is yet to come.

Her training regimen and attention to nutrition reflects how seriously she takes her chosen sport.

She does 3-4 hours a day on average up to six days a week, with at least 2-3 times a week focusing on pole vaulting or a drill relating to pole vault, under the watchful eye of coach Jeremy McColl.

There are three main elements to pole vaulting: speed, the plant of the pole and the elevation and technique of the vault.

"Almost every aspect of gymnastics and athletics fits into pole vault," says McCartney. "You've got running, jumping and gymnastics. It's tough to train for.

"I come from an athletics rather than gymnastics background, like a lot of pole vaulters, which gives me the advantage of height, strength and speed in that respect."

Her long levers are clearly an advantage, and have been since she took up the sport by chance at the Takapuna Athletic club after a friend started doing pole vault.

"I thought it looked the coolest thing in the world, but my body was sore for a whole month because it was such a different movement."

Idols include probably the greatest female pole vaulter of all time, Yelena Isinbayeva, whose world record stands at 5.06m.

That is the benchmark for McCartney, a full 61cm more than she has ever vaulted. Then there is Sergey Bubka, a true great, who presented the pole vault medals in Oregon, a thrill for McCartney.

Now her focus will be on preparing for the summer season with her North Harbour Bays club. She will also defend her national schools' title, won last year with a vault of 4.10m, in Wanganui this December.

- NZ Herald

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