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Quick Questions with Janice Keppler

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Medina resident is fourth-ranked U.S. woman in pole vault

Photos by Tom Rivers – Janice Keppler competes in Friday’s pole vaulting competition in Lyndonville. She cleared 14 feet, 6 inches, which was good for second place.

Keppler has been able to focus full-time on pole valuting since graduating from the Univeristy of Arkansas two years ago, and has added about 18 inches to her personal best since then.

MEDINA – Janice Keppler was an eighth-grader when she tried pole vault for the first time. Keppler was at track practice in Medina when her coach was looking for runners. He also wanted someone to try the pole vault.

Keppler wanted to avoid a sprint so she gave the vault a try. She is now the fourth-ranked pole vaulter in the country, and one of only eight American women to ever clear 15 feet in a competition.

Keppler, 26, graduated from Medina and was the state champion in the pole vault, clearing 12 feet. She was a star at the University of Arkansas. She graduated as a sociology major two years ago. She continues to train and compete, and raise the bar. Her personal best is now 15 feet, 1 inch.

She lives in Medina and helps her father Phil on the family’s beef farm when she isn’t training and competing.

She talked with the Orleans Hub on Friday after finishing second in a pole vaulting competition in Lyndonville. Keppler’s 14-foot, 6-inch vault was second only to Olympic Gold Medalist Jenn Suhr, who cleared 15 feet, 7 inches. The two train together in Churchville.

Question: Is it harder to stay in shape post-college?

Answer: Actually, I think it’s easier. Now I can focus more on my diet and what I need to get done. I can really hone it on it. I find it easier.

Question: Is pole vaulting your full-time job?

Answer: Yes it is. It takes a lot of training. I tried working before, working in the mornings and training in the afternoon. I found my body was drained.

Janice Keppler waves to the crowd at the White Birch Golf Course when she was introduced on Friday. The vaulters will be back in action at the White Birch on Friday with a competition beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Question: As the fourth-ranked woman, you’re knocking on the door for the top three. Are you thinking Olympics in 2016? (The top three Americans go to the Olympics)

Answer: I’m hoping for it. It’s a ways a way but I’m definitely aspiring for it. I feel like on any given day you can have a chance at it. At the indoor nationals I went in with a PR (personal record) of 4.40 and came out with a 4.60 (15 feet, 1 inch).

Question: How hard is it to add another six inches to the vault?

Answer: It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not out of reach. It’s very possible. It’s honing in on the stuff you need to fix and getting after it.

Question: You’ve got better since college?

Answer: Oh yes, definitely. I was a 13’6’ jumper in college so I’ve definitely come a long way.

Question: Was it strange to compete on the White Birch Golf Course tonight?

Answer: No (laughing). It’s like jumping at home.

Question: What is fun about pole vaulting?

Answer: Everything. The best is when you clear a bar. I get so amped up. I get such a sense of accomplishment. It’s an amazing feeling, especially on the third attempt. It takes extra concentration on your third attempt to really make it work.

Janice Keppler is one of only eight American women to ever clear 15 feet in the pole vault.

Question: What do you think people wonder about the pole vault?

Answer: People tend to ask about the equipment, the different poles – you can have carbon or fiber-glass poles.

Question: They are 15 feet long?

Answer: Fifteen, or 14’6’ or 14. They’re about eight pounds.

Question: It seems like it would be hard to run with a pole.

Answer: A little bit. You don’t even notice it because it’s right across your body.

Question: What was the connection that started you in this sport?

Answer: I did it to get out of sprinting. The coach said, ‘You can try vaulting or you can go run a 400.’ I said, ‘I think I’ll try pole vaulting.’

Question: You must have been reasonably good at it back then?

Answer: I was tall and could naturally get my way over the bar. I started out jumping maybe 7’6’. (When she graduated four years later, she was jumping 12 feet.)