ASHLAND, Ore. — There’s a group of outcasts in track and field. The runners run, the throwers throw and the jumpers jump. The pole vaulters are a different breed; they run, plant, bend and vault.
“It is excluded from the other track disciplines,” said SOU junior Stephanie Techler, “but I think it’s just so cool and it’s so much fun, and it’s just its own community.”
Techler is a key component of that community. She finished tenth at the NAIA National Championships last year, and she already qualified for the outdoor championships this year. Raiders’ coach Grier Gatlin believes 2014 could be even better for Stephanie.
“She’s definitely in the mix to win a national championship individually,” said Gatlin.
A national championship would put Techler in an even more exclusive club. In addition to doing an event that’s a little different, Stephanie is different in another way. She’s from Germany, the only international athlete on the team.
“In Germany it’s almost not possible to do sports and college at the same time so my only opportunity was Australia or America, and so I chose America,” said Techler.
She originally applied to the University of Oregon. The coaches there told her to get comfortable in Ashland for a couple years and then she could transfer up to Eugene. Techler got a little too comfortable.
“The community down here, it’s very family-oriented,” said Techler. “It’s a lot like Europe. It’s an outdoor activity area where there’s a lot going on outdoors, and it’s track oriented which is nice. Yeah, I really felt at home here.”
Techler wound up staying in Ashland and embraced the SOU experience.
“She’s a track fan, and I don’t care where you’re from, it becomes immediately apparent if you are a fan of this sport,” said Gatlin.
“It never gets boring, and it’s not always going to be the same thing,” said Techler. “Every jump is different and every vaulter jumps with a different technique.”
In Germany, pole vaulting is popular. Techler says many former gymnasts, like herself, turn to this sport.
“It’s very similar and you have the body strength and it’s upside down and turning and knowing where you are,” said Techler. “Going up at those heights, I mean you can’t be scared of heights, but it happens so fast, you can’t even tell that you’re up there for that long.”
“I think anytime you’re going to throw your body 12 feet over the ground on a pole, you might have a different outlook on life,” said Gatlin.
Techler definitely has a different outlook, but that’s what helps her fit right in.