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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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Barber_ShawnQ-World15.JPg

Shawn Barber, Gold Medal, Pole Vault, photo by PhotoRun.net

   

 

A look back on track & field in 2015 affirms that one of the bigger stories – not just in the pole vault, but within the entirety of our sport – was the stunning progression and lofty accomplishments of University of Akron pole vault prodigy Shawn Barber.  In what many dubbed The Year Of The Pole Vault, the series of breakout performances authored by the 21 year old Canadian athlete was perhaps one of the sport’s most compelling developments.

After a year where Barber broke the indoor collegiate pole vault record multiple times to set it at 5.91m/19’4¾”, successfully defended his NCAA indoor vault title, captured the NCAA outdoor crown, won the Pan American Games pole vault gold medal, and jumped with clean precision to capture the IAAF World Championship, more than a few thought that Shawn Barber might well wrest the #1 world pole vault ranking from 5-time reigning world leader Renaud Lavillenie. The three-pronged ascending metric of “progression of marks,” “head-to-head competition,” and “honors won” suggested a close contest:  the Frenchman had a superior seven 6.00m vaults; the two vaulters’ head-to-head competition was indecisive; and Barber copped the year’s top honor in Beijing.  But there was no changing of the guard as Lavillenie was once again crowned the year’s pole vault king.   But with the new year underway, can Barber – who found his way to the top podium step in Beijing – ultimately navigate to the top world ranking in 2016?

With the indoor season just now picking up steam, the new Nike professional once again is registering the type of sparkling performances that highlighted the magnificent year he assembled in 2015 as he continues to show the world that he is not yet near his pole vault plateau.  After opening the year – as he did in 2015 – with a world-leading 5.88m/19’3½’ clearance in Texas, Barber returned to Akron to successfully defend his Pole Vault Convention crown with a workmanlike 5.70m/18’8¼” win.

But a hint that another big year might be in the making for Barber was his breakthrough, high-efficiency victory in this year’s National Pole Vault Summit.  His 5 first-attempt clearances through 5.83m/19’1½” sent all of his world-class competitors – sans the absent Lavillenie – to the sidelines.  A successful third attempt at 5.94m/19’5¾” gave Barber a new PR and upped his world-leading mark.  “That was the goal – to jump that,” explained Barber.  “6 meters wasn’t even in my thought process.  I just wanted to go out and put on a show for everybody.”  With bar then raised to 6.00m/19’8¼” – a height which he had unsuccessfully attempted in competition “perhaps a dozen times” – the new professional went to work.  “At the back of the runway, I was thinking I could go up a pole.  Or I could stay on the pole that I’m on and try to be a little bit more technically correct and that’s the way I could make it,” Barber reveals.  “I weighed my options and I stayed on the short pole.”  The World Champion made the right choice.  When Barber unfurled a magnificent first-attempt clearance, he became the newest – and youngest ever – member of the 6 Meter Club, just the 19th member to clear 6.00m and only the 9th indoors.

While Barber’s historic world-leading 6 meter clearance serves as tangible evidence he may be ready to knock on the #1 world ranking door, there are two intangible, more subtle traits that may aid him in his quest. 

Barber has learned to view the very few disappointments he endures as motivation for future success.  During the last year, the Kingwood, Texas native – whose dual citizenship allows him to compete for Canada – was a rare track & field finalist for the coveted Sullivan Award, joined Marcus Dendy and Edward Cheserek as the 3 Bowerman Award finalists, and – with the World Championship crown – was a serious contender for the world’s #1 ranking in the pole vault.  When none of those honors came his way, Barber nonetheless transformed those potential disappointments into positive, inspiring learning experiences.  “When I lost the Bowerman, I think that was a great motivating factor.  I’ve always said that you don’t learn anything from win; you learn a lot from a loss.  You know which way to take it if you come off of a strong loss.  For me, that has been a big growing factor in my life:  just because you lose, it doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing.  You just have to realize this is what happened and ask what can I take away from this and make it a positive thing.”

The world champion has also cultivated an even-keeled temperament.  Much like the best world-class golfers who remain unflustered when errant shots find the trap or the water, Barber has trained himself to maintain poise when the inevitable unexpected pole vault calamity strikes – like the snapping of a favorite pole during the warmups of the NCAA finals.  “It was something I had to learn,” admits Barber.  “I used to watch other vaulters jump and they would get off the pit and celebrate.  And for me, I just saw that as kind of a waste of energy.  It is good to be positive about a result.  But you hear all these stories about somebody who gets off the pit and celebrates – they think they’ve won the meet.  And then somebody else comes in and sinks their ship.  And going into Rio, I think the biggest deciding factor on who’s going to do well is who can stay the calmest and who can have the most relaxed and enjoyable time out there.  I’d rather stay calm and collected until I know the final result.  And then you can have your moment of fun.” 

Barber – soon heading to Europe for a 4 week swing of indoor competition – is coy about his Olympic goal.  “Top 3 – that’s the goal,” declares the world champion, perhaps shielding his true ambition.  “If I’m in the right area, a medal shouldn’t be impossible.”

As 2016 began, one of track & field’s big questions was, “Can Barber Ascend To #1.”  But given Shawn Barber’s dominating early season performances – highlighted by his historic 6.00m clearance in mid-January – perhaps the more appropriate question now would be, “When Will Barber Ascend To #1?” 

 

A look back on track & field in 2015 affirms that one of the bigger stories – not just in the pole vault, but within the entirety of our sport – was the stunning progression and lofty accomplishments of University of Akron pole vault prodigy Shawn Barber. In what many dubbed The Year Of The Pole Vault, the series of breakout performances authored by the 21 year old Canadian athlete was perhaps one of the sport’s most compelling developments.

After a year where Barber broke the indoor collegiate pole vault record multiple times to set it at 5.91m/19’4¾”, successfully defended his NCAA indoor vault title, captured the NCAA outdoor crown, won the Pan American Games pole vault gold medal, and jumped with clean precision to capture the IAAF World Championship, more than a few thought that Shawn Barber might well wrest the #1 world pole vault ranking from 5-time reigning world leader Renaud Lavillenie. The three-pronged ascending metric of “progression of marks,” “head-to-head competition,” and “honors won” suggested a close contest: the Frenchman had a superior seven 6.00m vaults; the two vaulters’ head-to-head competition was indecisive; and Barber copped the year’s top honor in Beijing. But there was no changing of the guard as Lavillenie was once again crowned the year’s pole vault king. But with the new year underway, can Barber – who found his way to the top podium step in Beijing – ultimately navigate to the top world ranking in 2016?

With the indoor season just now picking up steam, the new Nike professional once again is registering the type of sparkling performances that highlighted the magnificent year he assembled in 2015 as he continues to show the world that he is not yet near his pole vault plateau. After opening the year – as he did in 2015 – with a world-leading 5.88m/19’3½’ clearance in Texas, Barber returned to Akron to successfully defend his Pole Vault Convention crown with a workmanlike 5.70m/18’8¼” win.

But a hint that another big year might be in the making for Barber was his breakthrough, high-efficiency victory in this year’s National Pole Vault Summit. His 5 first-attempt clearances through 5.83m/19’1½” sent all of his world-class competitors – sans the absent Lavillenie – to the sidelines. A successful third attempt at 5.94m/19’5¾” gave Barber a new PR and upped his world-leading mark. “That was the goal – to jump that,” explained Barber. “6 meters wasn’t even in my thought process. I just wanted to go out and put on a show for everybody.” With bar then raised to 6.00m/19’8¼” – a height which he had unsuccessfully attempted in competition “perhaps a dozen times” – the new professional went to work. “At the back of the runway, I was thinking I could go up a pole. Or I could stay on the pole that I’m on and try to be a little bit more technically correct and that’s the way I could make it,” Barber reveals. “I weighed my options and I stayed on the short pole.” The World Champion made the right choice. When Barber unfurled a magnificent first-attempt clearance, he became the newest – and youngest ever – member of the 6 Meter Club, just the 19th member to clear 6.00m and only the 9th indoors.

While Barber’s historic world-leading 6 meter clearance serves as tangible evidence he may be ready to knock on the #1 world ranking door, there are two intangible, more subtle traits that may aid him in his quest.

Barber has learned to view the very few disappointments he endures as motivation for future success. During the last year, the Kingwood, Texas native – whose dual citizenship allows him to compete for Canada – was a rare track & field finalist for the coveted Sullivan Award, joined Marcus Dendy and Edward Cheserek as the 3 Bowerman Award finalists, and – with the World Championship crown – was a serious contender for the world’s #1 ranking in the pole vault. When none of those honors came his way, Barber nonetheless transformed those potential disappointments into positive, inspiring learning experiences. “When I lost the Bowerman, I think that was a great motivating factor. I’ve always said that you don’t learn anything from win; you learn a lot from a loss. You know which way to take it if you come off of a strong loss. For me, that has been a big growing factor in my life: just because you lose, it doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. You just have to realize this is what happened and ask what can I take away from this and make it a positive thing.”

The world champion has also cultivated an even-keeled temperament. Much like the best world-class golfers who remain unflustered when errant shots find the trap or the water, Barber has trained himself to maintain poise when the inevitable unexpected pole vault calamity strikes – like the snapping of a favorite pole during the warmups of the NCAA finals. “It was something I had to learn,” admits Barber. “I used to watch other vaulters jump and they would get off the pit and celebrate. And for me, I just saw that as kind of a waste of energy. It is good to be positive about a result. But you hear all these stories about somebody who gets off the pit and celebrates – they think they’ve won the meet. And then somebody else comes in and sinks their ship. And going into Rio, I think the biggest deciding factor on who’s going to do well is who can stay the calmest and who can have the most relaxed and enjoyable time out there. I’d rather stay calm and collected until I know the final result. And then you can have your moment of fun.”

Barber – soon heading to Europe for a 4 week swing of indoor competition – is coy about his Olympic goal. “Top 3 – that’s the goal,” declares the world champion, perhaps shielding his true ambition. “If I’m in the right area, a medal shouldn’t be impossible.”

As 2016 began, one of track & field’s big questions was, “Can Barber Ascend To #1.” But given Shawn Barber’s dominating early season performances – highlighted by his historic 6.00m clearance in mid-January – perhaps the more appropriate question now would be, “When Will Barber Ascend To #1?”

RunBlogRun Some photographs on this site have been reproduced with permission from runblogrun.com.