When Moravian senior Abby Schaffer lines up to pole vault at the NCAA Indoor National Championships, she will for once be able to focus on one thing: jumping high.

She has reached this point after taking some time to be honest with herself and realize what she wanted more to life than being a track and field star. Schaffer wanted a solid balance between pole vaulting, academics and quality time with friends and family.

During her final year of high school, Schaffer was recruited to vault by several Division I schools and made official and unofficial visits to four. She found a home on her visit to Virginia Tech. "I loved the atmosphere," Schaffer said. "And [I] knew right away [that Virginia Tech would be my choice.]"

Schaffer has fond memories of her experience at Virginia Tech, and she is especially grateful for the lessons she learned and the people she met. She credits the year at Virginia Tech with helping her learn how to manage her time, "Balancing track and school has helped me out with balancing the rest of my life," Schaffer said.

2011 POLE VAULT CHAMPIONS
DI Tina Sutej, Arkansas 14-7.25
DII Lauren Stelten, Minn. State 13-6.75
DIII Abby Schaffer, Moravian 13-8.25

She also has nothing but good things to say about the people she met during her time with their program.  "I really enjoyed the people on the team, and the coach was awesome" Schaffer said, explaining that Coach Bob Phillips helped her improve tremendously. 

With Coach Phillips's help, Schaffer jumped 13-7 3/4 her freshman year, which is just a half-inch under her current personal record of 13-8 ¼, which she recorded in 2011. 

Despite her appreciation for the program and the lessons it taught her, she cites the time commitment to track and academics at Virginia Tech as a challenge. Though she learned how to balance these things, she realized that she "wanted [her] life to be about more than just track," and ultimately decided that the intensity of a Division-I program was not for her. She also pointed to homesickness as a struggle she faced at Virginia Tech, and decided to look for a school closer to home. 

She considered Moravian, her current school, but ultimately decided on Widener in order to continue the communications major that she had enjoyed at Virginia Tech.

Schaffer's departure from Virginia Tech also came with a decision to take a break from vaulting altogether. "I wasn't really jumping the heights I wanted to be jumping, Schaffer said."  "[I was] thinking I was going to be a normal student without having to go to practice every day."

She took the summer off and went back to school in the fall. Soon after school began, however, she realized that she was missing a big part of her life.  "Going from having practice every day for such a long time in your life to all of a sudden not having anything to do with pole vaulting was a huge shock," Schaffer said. 

Although she was continuing with her major, classes were going well, and she was enjoying her time with her friends, she found herself bored without the extra challenge of pole vaulting.

As soon as she started jumping again, she knew that she wanted to stick with it. The move to Division III was perfect for Schaffer. "Coming to the DIII level was a good choice for me because it is still very competitive," Schaffer said. "I'm jumping just as high, and I have a perfect balance between my sports schedule and friends. Plus, being closer to home allows me to see my family a lot more often."

Schaffer did well at Widener and enjoyed her experience there, but knew that to keep improving she needed to make another change.  "I knew that if I wanted to be a serious contender for winning my junior year I needed to fix my form, approach and running style to make it all click back into place," Schaffer said.

I'm jumping just as high, and I have a perfect balance between my sports schedule and friends.  Plus, being closer to home allows me to see my family a lot more often.
-- Moravian's Abby Schaffer

That summer, Schaffer volunteered at a camp at her old club, Vertical Assault, and got exactly what she wanted. "Simply being around a bunch of the Moravian vaulters, who are all my really close friends from high school, I just realized that coming to Moravian would be the best fit for me and would make me the happiest," Schaffer said.

Not only was Schaffer back with her old coach and teammates, but her academic situation worked out as well. When she spoke with the admissions official at Moravian about her desire to keep her communications major, she was informed that she would be able to accomplish her goals with a marketing major instead. 

Additionally, Moravian had recently decided to implement a marketing track within their management major. "[That] was so much more appealing to me" Schaffer said, "And was helpful in making my decision."

Schaffer's results from her junior season make it obvious that she finally found the right place for her.  She stepped up her training regimen with coach Mike Lawryk, sprinting, lifting and working on her form. Though she said she didn't expect to win both championships she was indeed the indoor and outdoor Division III national champion with jumps of 13-8 ¼ and 13-7, both meet records.

Perhaps more importantly, she also set a new personal record with the 13-8 1/4 surprising herself. Additionally, she was selected as part of the All-Academic Team. "I am already satisfied with how I've been doing," Schaffer said. "I won't feel like I never accomplished something I wanted to do."

In light of the successes of her junior year, the goal for senior is, of course, to jump higher.  Schaffer’s season has been an admittedly frustrating one, as Schaffer said that it is hard to try and do as well as last year. 

Her highest jump this season is more than six inches lower that her personal record set last season. In addition, she reports said there is not much competition in her area until the Regional meets. Her focus on jumping higher pushes her to meet the challenge of motivating and competing against herself.

She remains optimistic despite her struggles this season, defining her goals as winning another national title, and ultimately to exceed the 14 foot mark. Looking ahead to championship weekend, Schaffer is excited to jump against top competition.  

She currently sits behind Linfield’s Catherine Street, who recorded a height of 13-9 ¼ in early February. Acknowledging the tougher competition this year, she says that she is particularly excited to jump against Street. 

Refusing to define herself solely as an athlete, she has sought a place where she can strike the right balance of her priorities, and right now she wouldn’t change a thing.