Eugene, Ore. -- Shawn Barber is the 2015 NCAA pole vault champion -- but it didn’t happen without a little mishap before the event even started.
While he was warming up at Hayward Field on Wednesday afternoon, his pole snapped.“It was one of my best, one of my favorites,” Barber joked. “But that’s OK. We’ll find a way to get it back.”
Barber, a junior, said the incident didn’t affect his performance. He clinched the win on a jump of 5.60 meters (18 feet, 4 ½ inches) and cleared the bar with ease.
He is now the only three-time NCAA champion for Akron. He also won the 2014 and 2015 Indoor National Championships.
“It’s a great feeling,” Barber said while fist-pumping. “I love representing my school and making my Zips proud. It’s a great feeling for me.”
Barber appeared to be the favorite heading into the competition. He cleared 19 feet in nine meets this season. He had a bit of a rocky start and didn’t clear a couple of jumps in the beginning, and sat in ninth place after clearing 5.40 meters (17-8½).
“I was just as nervous as the crowd out there,” Barber said. “It is a nerve-racking sport, especially when you get down to those third attempts. So to come back and do so well, it was really a nice feeling for me.”
He said the broken pole wasn’t a factor.
“It’s a little mental,” Barber said. “But I think I pushed through it and I did what I needed to do after that … I think I just got a little too hyped up. The crowd out here was a great crowd. I think I just put a little too much into it.”
Third-place finisher Dylan Duvio of Stanford said that although he has never broken a pole in a warm-up, he has done it during a meet, and it can throw you off.
“It rattles me a little bit,” Duvio said. “It’s a little scary, when you are upside down and it breaks – it can whip you. I remember one time, it whipped the back of my head. Those things are weird. Barber came back out, and he was just fine. He did great.”
Barber, who is on the 2015 Bowerman Award watchlist, said he had some ideas about a certain height he wanted to hit today, but that his main goal was just to focus on jumping to win.
“That’s all you can worry about,” he said.
After clinching the title, Barber attempted 5.75 meters (18-10¼), but was not successful. Despite being a newly crowned national champion, Barber was fairly mellow after taking his victory lap.
“To see some of these great jumpers come out and not do as well as they wanted, I know the feeling, too,” he said. “So I will save my celebrations for the end of the year.”
Barber’s 2015 season didn’t end today. He said he plans to attend as many meets as possible and compete in Europe for a while.
“I want to push myself up to get up to that world-class level in Beijing,” he said. “I am trying to keep my head down for a little bit. I am trying to keep pushing through and get some bigger marks out there … I know my season isn’t over yet, so this is just a stepping stone for me.”
As far as the future after college, Barber said no plans are set yet.
“I am just trying to keep all my options very open now,” he said. “I am looking forward to my future, and see how the rest of the outdoor season goes. But right now I am very happy at the University of Akron.”