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Garrett vaults into Texas Relays

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AUSTIN — Deanna Garrett has been perfecting her pole vaulting style this past track season.

She is representing herself and the Como-Pickton Lady Eagles track team today at the 2009 82nd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays presented by State Farm held at the Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas.

The annual track and field event draws thousands of athletes, it has been said by past participants that the whole city goes crazy. Garrett will be performing to literally a packed house.

“This is her first time to qualify, for girls - pole vaulters must clear 10-foot,” said Meg Garrett, Deanna's mother and CPCISD employee. “This will give her a chance to get a preview, to hopefully, state.”

Garrett will have her work cut out after coming off a bad meet at Rains this past Saturday. The weather was less than cooperative with 25 mile an hour cold winds blowing contributing to Garrett's no height results. And the weather isn't permitting for her have the opportunity to get one more meet in at Winona before traveling to Austin. At the beginning of March, Garrett cleared 11-0, her personal best, at the meet in Hawkins. Last year, she took home fifth from state with a height of 10-0. The 2008 state champion was Madison Gattis of Hawkins with 11-3, but she isn't contending this year.

For over a year with the help of former C-P coach Rich Lawrence (currently the head track coach at Texas A&M in Commerce), Garrett found a private pole vaulting coach in George Rodriquez, a pole vaulting champion and director of the Elite Vaulter Sports Complex near Fort Worth. At this privately owned indoor training facility, Garrett has been given one-on-one coaching by Rodriquez. As of 2008, Rodriquez remains ranked No. 57 on the CCS All-Time Boys Pole Vaulters ranks with his 15-foot height at his Del Mar High School in 1977.

But Rodriquez wasn't her first coach at Elite, Garrett vividly recalled when she changed coaches and the difficulties she had adjusting her vaulting mid-year. She is back on track with her training. “I have lost 20 pounds and have been keeping it off while continuing to work my core and increasing the strength in my upper body,” Garrett said holding her poles and fighting the winds Thursday. “My coach asked me if I wanted to go higher. My answer was simple, 'yes',” she said. “He has invited me to teach summer camps at the facility this year; I also helped during spring break. I am hoping to attend UTA (University of Texas at Arlington) on a scholarship and continue my education to eventually coach as well. I love it, but it doesn't come naturally. I have to really work on it.” Garrett usually makes the trek to her private lessons twice a week.

Texas Pole Vault Club-for the past 10 years Rodriguez has been involved with coaching pole vaulting. In 1998, Rodriquez introduced a pole vaulting club "Texas Pole Vault" which started developing pole vaulters of all ages, level and gender. For the past six years many of these vaulters have medaled at the Texas State Championship and both USATF and AAU National competitions. All vaulters have experienced success at every level of competition and some have accepted college scholarships and are competing at the college level. Putting her lucky, colorful socks to good use, Garrett has already exceeded novice and gold levels to move beyond the highest level of elite in the club.

What is her ultimate goal? Her reply, “I would love to reach the Olympic level. I think that requires a clearance of 15-0.” She was right. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, world record-holder Yelena Isinbaeva of Russia was the only women's pole vaulter to clear the automatic qualifying height of 4.6 meters during first qualification round. Among the vaulters who qualified by clearing 4.5 were Americans Jenn Stuczynski and April Steiner. (4.6 meters equals 15.09 feet approximately)

She has already got the right tools in place-family and coaching support, the desire and heart, and the right poles for the job. Coach Rodriguez has been instrumental in the development of a progressive training system, enabling vaulters to jump both safer and higher.

It was not until the 2001-02 school year that girls were even permitted to compete in UIL in pole vaulting, now many are breaking barriers. Como-Pickton Lady Eagles head track coach Virginia Green had many positives in working with Garrett.         “She has worked really hard to get to the point where she is today. She accepted the challenge in making changes that would help her become a better vaulter and that has paid off for her. She is going to Austin to compete against schools from all over Texas and from different divisions and that doesn't seem to frighten her at all,” Green said. “I am very proud of her willingness and drive to get better and to challenge herself daily... I am very proud of her.” Green admits that she gives her support, but that C-P coach Travis Woods works primarily with the pole vaulters. “I like helping the underclassmen with their vaulting techniques. It was in junior high that I first acquired the passion.” Garrett mentioned.

Pole vaulting is not for the weak, physically or mentally. “Some of the guys (fellow C-P pole vaulters Hunter Cooksey and Dustin Flowers) and I joke about vaulting techniques, like saying the key is talking to our poles or try screaming while sprinting down the runway,” she laughed.

She did admit that she has come close to injuring herself a few times, but doesn't want to add any additional weight by wearing a protective helmet. The pole vaulting poles don't come cheap either. “When I first started, I could get by with a $150 pole, since then it has nearly doubled.” And breaks do happen. Recently, C-P has snapped several crossbars while hosting track meets, Garrett recalled snapping one of her poles, but she continues to strive.  “I can just hear my coach in my head when I get frustrated-'don't look at the crossbar, Deanna,' he would say,” she said wishing he could attend her meets but she is very content with the support of her mom and family. She is not the only athlete from the Garrett family to pass through the halls of Como-Pickton; her brother, Jonathan was equally successful in power lifting for several years.

This is her last chance as Garrett finishes her senior year at Como-Pickton. As the recipient of last year's Ron Heflin Fighting Heart Award for track, Garrett looks to add a few more trophies to her shelf before graduation.

For the rest of the schedule, the Como-Pickton track members will travel to Edgewood on Thursday, April 9 for another meet that will replace the originally slated Caddo Mills meet just before breaking for a bad weather day on Friday and Easter holiday. District will be a two-day event at Grand Saline April 15- 16. C-P will go to HS regional qualifiers meet at White Oak on Friday, April 24.

For more live results on the Texas Relays, go directly to the website at http://www.texassports.com/livestats/m-track/relays/index.htm.

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