Golden Noah - An Interview

(Photo provided by Noah Shafer)

Personal Records:

Long Jump:  17-4

Pole Vault:  15-3

 What is your height and weight?

 My height is 6-1 and weight 162.'

 Where were you born and what sports did you play as a youth?

 I was born in Burnsville, MN. I played soccer for a number of years, as well as football and hockey. I had also done swimming and gymnastics for a couple years when I was much younger. I started track as a freshman in high school. Honestly, I would say football helped me the most. It taught me to be fearless and commit to something. In football, just as in vaulting, it is dangerous to tackle someone without fully committing.

 What are the most difficult obstacles you have had to overcome?

 My most difficult obstacle has actually been off the field. I have battled the same things most athletes have, injuries, shin splints, etc. but in reality, I would say it has been my sister's illnesses. When she was 13 she went into the hospital for months at a time. No doctors could figure out the issue. Eventually it was diagnosed as Pancreatitis. This escalated into lupus, as well as pots, and a few other diseases. My sister's always driven me to make the most out my life. That's why I always try to keep active, because she can't. This has been hard on my family as well as me. I've spent a lot of time in the hospital with her, but if you want to see true grit, look at her, not me. As I said, she's what's driven much of my sports career.

 Which coaches have helped you the most?

 What's funny about my coaches is the fact that the old Lakeville South pole vaulting coach quit the year before I joined. Jonathan Gilmer ended up being my coach for the first three years. He didn't know pole vaulting very well at first, but he studied up and taught us what he could. Honestly, I would rather have him than an actual pole vaulting coach because he knows me so well mentally. He also coached me in football. Pole vaulting is such a mental sport, I compare it to golf in that way. He would always help me when I got frustrated, he'd tell me to relax or take a break. He helped me to focus.

Then this recent year, we got an actual pole vaulting coach. Zach Gelineau used to be a vaulter at Lakeville South. He ended up vaulting 15-3 in college. He's helped me to refine much of my technique. He's been a great coach and I hope he continues!

Do you go to camps or watch a lot of video?

I do a lot of research online to help out my technique. As I said before, Mr. Gilmer wasn't an actual pole vault coach, so I always tried to learn more online. I've read through almost anything I could find online related to drills or technique. I've also watched hours and hours of videos to help me. I think that's a big deal for vaulters, to work at home with what they can.

Before every meet I'd watch various videos and slo-mo's of Olympic vaulters and visualize myself using their form. As for videos, I would recommend just watching Olympic vaulters. They are the best resource one can find on the ideal pole vaulting form.

Besides that, and for actual drills, I would say take a look at this video.

There is a drill for almost everything you need in that video! I have also gone to various summer camps. Mainly they help me to just get some vaults in on the off season so that I can stay fresh for the actual season, but I also work on a fair bit. This summer my coach is doing a camp so I'll be going there, it's a great way to learn and stay sharp for the season!

(Photo provided by Noah Shafer)

Do you follow any college or professional pole vaulters?

As to the athletes I follow. I try to stay apprised on Lee Bares, now at Army, who was a vaulter from Lakeville South. He actually holds our school record at 15-9. I really wanted to get that, but didn't quite get there.

Professionally I follow Renaud Lavillenie, who is the world record holder for pole vault. I also like to keep up to date on golfers. I think golfers can teach people so much mentally speaking. They can't get frustrated and are always calm and collected. The same has to go for pole vault, if your focus is off, or if you're frustrated, you won't vault well, it's just a fact. They also practice for 8 hours a day at times, it's a philosophy that just shows that hard work equals success, there never has been and there never will be shortcuts to it.

What advice would you give to beginning pole vaulters?

For people new to vaulting, I would honestly just say to stick with it. As you said, it is the most technically challenging sport in track, it's not something most people just pick up and are good at. My first meet ever, I ended up getting 9-6, in 4 yearsI've progressed to my current PR of 15-3. When I started my form was probably worse than most starters, I landed on my head as much as my back! But I stuck with it, just as any vaulter does, you will pick up the technique as you go. Lastly train in the weight room and train for sprints. Any good vaulter will tell you speed equals height, but strength will always augment that height.

Which of your teammates have inspired you?

Many of my teammates have encouraged me. One of my best friends Anthony Vote, as well as his brother Adam Vote, have always encouraged me to try harder. To work harder we used to come out in the summer and work on sprint training. They were both hurdlers. We actually built fake hurdles for them to train on! That was the philosophy they instilled in me.

Another big influence was the other vaulters, we'd always joke around, but they truly helped me to get better. They would sit off and tell me what I needed to work on when I was younger.

One last person would be Brittan Burns, he's an amazing athlete and would be doing probably about 10 events if there was no limit. (Burns has a 5718 score for the decathlon as high school junior!)  Before every meet he'd ask me what I was going for height wise and if he didn't think it was high enough he'd tell me what I should go for. I believe his exact wording whenever I saw him before a meet was "Let's get it!" And most of the time we did, we had a really good season and my teammates deserve so much credit, we all put in a lot of work and it paid off.

Who are your main competitors?

There are a lot of good vaulters this year. Coming into it, I thought Calvin Ciganik would be my main competition. He gave me a run for my money at many meets. Henry Adams as well as Drew Dockendorf also ended up being big competition. They are great athletes and good people. We always chat at meets and see how everybody else is doing. That's what's nice about pole vaulting, I've got many friends from different schools that vault, because in reality, your not against them, your against yourself and the bar. Most people get that and it's always fun to cheer other people on, especially if they PR, regardless of the height.

Notably though, the guys from Prior Lake have always been super nice and very supportive. They are great kids and they've got an awesome coach. They always cheer me on and I always do my best to cheer them on. They've got some good vaulters, but they're always very humble and overall great guys. Honestly vaulting is a community in and of itself; there are very few guys who aren't outstanding people in general. I'm glad to be apart of this community.