Pole vaulter enjoys record breaking season

Ends with fourth place finish in State Meet of Champions

Nicole Arden and Kaitlyn Conti

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(Editor’s Note: A mistake was made in the original story and said Purcell’s best was 11 feet 6 inches. Purcell’s personal best is 12 feet, which she accomplished at the state sectional meet). 

Sophomore Melissa Purcell started gymnastics when she was four-years-old, practicing fives days a week for three and half hours each night. She joked that she had no social life because gymnastics took up all her time. Now, it’s pole vault that is consuming most of her time, often staying until 6 o’clock with pole vaulting coach Tim Wilson, and it’s paid dividends.

“By the end of the track season I would like to continue improving to new heights,” she said.

Purcell wound up placing fourth at the State Meet of Champions in girls pole vault last Wednesday, recording a height of 11 feet 6 inches.

But, that was the only the finale to a record setting season for Purcell. Her dominance began early and continued throughout the season.

On April 6 Pascack Valley track and field took on Old Tappan. Even though PV fell to Old Tappan, sophomore Melissa Purcell stood out by breaking a new school record in pole vault, with a height of 10 feet 6 inches compared to her previous record of 10 feet during the winter track season.  

Then on April 16 Purcell broke her own school record at 11 feet and broke her own record again on April 18 Purcell vaulted 11 feet 6 inches.

However, her personal best is 12 feet, a mark which she hit twice—once at the State Sectional Meet and at the Fast Times Meet.

The former gymnast Purcell started track as a freshman, “I knew a lot of old gymnasts did pole vault, so I wanted to give it a try.” Purcell said.

While she was a gymnast, she spent a lot of time in the gym training and becoming stronger. Purcell uses her strength that she gained from gymnastics to the help her pole vault, with the strength serving as the driving force getting her over the bar. 

However, she kept getting injured, sustaining a broken nose, a concussion, and many sprained ankles. Finally, in the seventh grade she had to get elbow surgery. That surgery set Purcell back over a year, and Purcell finally said, “It’s just time to stop [gymnastics].”

She has a some advice for anyone who might be interested in pole vault, “Do it, It’s fun! You’ll make so many new friends and fun memories.”

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