In a year full of bright spots for the Johns Hopkins men’s track & field team, the emergence of freshman pole vaulter Andrew Bartnett as a legitimate star has to stand out.
Bartnett has already accomplished more in one year than most collegiate athletes accomplish in four, racking up historic accomplishments with seemingly every week that goes by. He's the Centennial Conference rookie of the year for the indoor season and he's now the school record holder in both indoor and outdoor pole vault.
For Bartnett, the unprecedented run has been but another chapter in a story that began when he was a freshman at John Burroughs School in St. Louis. Bartnett dabbled in a number of sports before high school and even saw baseball as his best before finally discovering his knack for the pole vault during his freshman year.
“I originally played baseball until high school and then my freshman year basketball coach, who was [also] the pole vault coach, somehow talked me into switching,” Bartnett said.
“I was a little apprehensive because I really liked baseball. I actually don’t really remember why I switched. But, I soon fell in love with it because it was a lot of fun. As a kid, I was always swinging on stuff and climbing stuff so it seemed like a good fit for me.”
Bartnett’s success at his new-found sport had opened a number of doors for him by the time his senior year rolled around, but he chose to attend JHU because of the unique opportunity it presented him.
“Hopkins was definitely the best academic school I got into and that’s why I chose it,” he said. “I’m an engineering major and engineering and athletics are a lot of times hard to do [together] and that’s why Hopkins was attractive. Because its DIII, there’s time to balance both.”
By the time he arrived on the Homewood Campus, Bartnett had heard a number of stories about high school pole vaulters making it to the collegiate level, only to struggle with the adjustment and never realize the same level of success again. Wanting to avoid the same fate, he got right to work on improving the various aspects of his technique and preparing himself for the heightened competition.
He also had the good fortune of being on a team with a number of veteran pole vaulters who were more than willing to teach him about everything from the manner in which practices are run at JHU, to the best ways to approach coaches about obtaining new equipment.
With a support system in place, Bartnett was able to contribute from the start. By the end of February, he had set the Johns Hopkins freshman records at the Princeton Invitational and Gotham Cup and was named a Centennial Conference Athlete of the Week for the first time. He followed that up by qualifying for the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“It came right down to the wire, to the last-chance meet [the Keogh Invitational] the week before. It’s an incredible feeling after you get over [the bar] and you’re falling down,” he said.
Bartnett didn’t finish as high as he had hoped at the Championships, but the experience alone made up for any disappointment he felt.
“Just the atmosphere, how official it was,” he said. “It was different, but it was a really cool atmosphere to be exposed to.”
About month later, he broke the JHU outdoor record – previously held by Brian Nichols for 14 years – and tied for the best mark in Division III this outdoor season with a jump of 16’4.75” at the Hopkins/Loyola Invitational.
Now Bartnett turns his attention to helping his team in the postseason.
“Even though track is a very individual sport, this team feels like it’s a football team or a basketball team,” he said. “There’s a team feeling where everyone has to contribute, especially this year, since we’re trying to three-peat with titles in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track.”