John’s Journal: Ready To Vault Into The History Books
Pine Island’s Jarod White Has His Sights Set On Going Higher
Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2022 - 9:42 PM
The first track and field meet of the season for seven girls and boys teams in southeast Minnesota was held Tuesday in Lake City. The Lake City Invitational -- as has been the case with many scheduled gatherings during this wet, cold spring – was originally booked for Monday before being pushed back 24 hours in search of better weather.
Fifty degrees under overcast skies? That sufficed quite nicely for a Minnesota Tuesday in April. The meet was smooth, the athletes worked hard and everyone cheered. One of the most intriguing events was the boys pole vault.
Aaron Prinsen of Rushford-Peterson/Houston finished first by clearing a height of 12 feet, followed by Tanner Finstuen of Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Sam Knox of Pine Island and Zayne Novek of Zumbrota-Mazeppa, all at 10 feet.
By the time Pine Island senior Jarod White made his first attempt, all the other pole vaulters had finished vaulting and the girls and boys 4x400 relay events – the day’s final races – were taking place. It was after 9 p.m. … the meet had started at 4:15.
White asked for the bar to be initially set at 12 feet, 6 inches. He missed all three attempts and that was that. He was done for the day at his first track meet of the season and only the third time this spring that he has been able to pole vault outdoors.
White also ran the 200 and 400 meters, placing second in both; the winners were R.J. Sylak of Zumbrota-Mazeppa in the 200 and Zack Ihde of Pine Island in the 400.
Jarod is a polite young man who is dedicated to his sport. He will compete as a track athlete at North Dakota State and is one of the top track and field competitors in Minnesota in 2022. The accolades are based on what he accomplished last season and expectations for this season. At the 2021 state championships, he set a meet record by clearing 15 feet, 9 inches; he had cleared 16-0 at the section meet. The all-time state record in the boys pole vault is 16-1¾, set by Mounds View’s Calvin Ciganik in 2018.
At state in 2021, White’s final three attempts came with the bar set at 16-2. The bar came down on all three attempts, but on a hot, sunny afternoon at St. Michael-Albertville High School, Jarod set the table for 2022.
“I think that did definitely put him on the map,” said Pine Island pole vault coach Amanda (Frame) Swintek, who was a two-time NCAA Division II indoor national champion in the pole vault at Minnesota State Mankato in 2004 and 2005.
“He's got a lot of speed,” she said. “He's got a lot of strength, but I think the thing that really sets him apart is that he has a lot of really good body awareness and he's super coachable.”
Jarod spent most of Tuesday’s track meet wearing a Star Wars stocking cap with a Batman blanket wrapped around himself for warmth. Underneath was a 2021 state track hoodie and his vaulting and sprinting uniform. He wore black leggings under his maroon and gold Pine Island Panthers gear, and when vaulting his head was protected by a black helmet.
The school colors match those of the University of Minnesota, which White considered before choosing North Dakota State. Minnesota dropped indoor men’s track and field in 2020, resulting in recruiting repercussions.
While also considering South Dakota State, he said, “It was mainly between the U of M and NDSU. The main thing was the U of M didn't have an indoor men's track team.”
Right now, however, his focus is on vaulting higher than anyone in the history of Minnesota high school track and field. His 16-0 accomplishment puts him third on the all-time list behind Ciganik’s 16-1¾ and a 16-1¼ by Blake’s Grant Krieger in 2013. Next is Mitch Valli of Buffalo, who cleared 15-11 in 2013.
“My main goal this season is to get 16-5,” Jarod said. “That's my first goal because that would be about five meters and that's what I really want to try to hit before I go to college.”
Not surprisingly, White has a gymnastics background. Many top pole vaulters are former or current gymnasts, a sport that helps develop body control and the proper mechanics for the pole vault, which requires a mix of speed, strength and agility.
Jarod was involved in a Rochester gymnastics training center from kindergarten until fifth grade, he said.
“Ever since I was young I would climb on things and just be a little kid that would mess around climbing things and doing stuff like that. So I had upper-body strength, I guess, and (coaches) wanted to put me into something where I could do that stuff.”
Asked what Jarod needs to work on, Swintek had to think.
“That's the hardest question, right?” she said. “I've been racking my brain all year, thinking, ‘What can we work on?’ We're going to work on getting back a little bit further on his vault, rocking back so that he can go up off the top of his vault a little bit better. He's been working on his run in the offseason so that he can optimize his plant. He's not the tallest vaulter (at 5-foot-9), so he really needs to extend his plant to make sure that he can be as tall as he can at takeoff.”
Everything has certainly worked out very well so far, even if the circumstances are not always perfect. By the time Jarod made his first attempt Tuesday in Lake City, the people running the pole vault were using cell phone flashlights to set the standards in the proper spots.
White used a measuring tape to mark the spot where he would start his sprint down the runway, a spot much farther away from the landing pit than any of the other vaulters. His pole, measuring 15 feet, was also much longer than the rest. Poles can cost hundreds of dollars, with some more than $1,000, so Pine Island rents poles for White rather than buy them on the off chance that another high-level vaulter will appear on the scene.
Jarod took three warmup runs as he focused on his steps and takeoff spot. On all three of his errant vaults, he smoothly went over the bar but tapped it with his midsection on his return to Earth.
“I didn't do as well as I wanted but it was still a good time, building blocks,” he said. “So sure, the first meet didn’t go like we wanted, but we're training through meets so I don't really expect that much yet.”
The season, and the vaults, will continue for White and his teammates; Thursday in Stewartville, next Tuesday in Cannon Falls, April 28 in Byron, April 29 at the Hamline Elite Meet in St. Paul and beyond.
The sky, as they say, is the limit.
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org