Reaching new heights

Published 9:29 pm Friday, May 6, 2011

Sophomore Abby Snater is reaching new heights in her pole vault career at Austin having already broke the school record she set last year again this year. - Eric Johnson/

Since she was eight-years old, gymnastics have always been a big part of Austin sophomore Abby Snater’s life.

Over the past couple of years, Snater has transferred that gymnastics love into another sport — pole vaulting.

Since she started pole vaulting in her eighth grade year, Snater has grown rapidly as she set the Austin high school record in the event her freshman year and she has now added to that record when she hit a height of 10-feet, 6-inches in the last two meets.

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Snater’s gymnastics background helped her adjust quickly to the motion of vaulting and it also helped her shake off any possible fears.

“I think since I’ve been in gymnastics for eight years that kind of takes all of the fear out. A lot of people think it’s a scary event but I like it,” Snater said. “If I wasn’t in gymnastics I don’t think I would’ve been too great at this.”

Snater was drawn to the pole vault as a seventh grader when she watched her sister compete in the event. After joining the track team as an eighth grader, it took her about a year to get a hold of the event and another year before she started reaching some of the higher heights.

Austin’s pole vaulting coach Pete Walker said that Snater’s work ethic and coachability have carried her as much as her talent.

“When you tell her what to do, she kind of figures it out right away,” he said. “It makes coaching pole vaulting really fun when you have someone (like her) who really likes what they’re doing.”

While she’s happy to have earned the school record as a freshman, Snater would also like to make a trip to the state track and field meet this year. To do that, she’d have to reach a height of 10-7 at the section meet, which takes place June 2 and June 4 at Lakeville South.

Snater has reached a 10-7 in practice last season, but she has yet to do it at a meet. By the end of the year, she’d like to be at 11-feet.

“I just need to work on more form and getting my legs back and I should keep going higher,” Snater said. “I think I’m pretty consistent with 10-6 and one more inch (to get to state) shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”

Snater, who has improved two and a half feet in the last two years on the pole vault, has made huge strides in the event without a fellow athlete to mentor her. Last year, the only other pole vaulter on the team was injured and this year, there aren’t any pole vaulters who are near her level.

Snater gets most of her encouragement from her friends, who are always asking about how she’s doing.

According to Austin head girls track and field coach Nancy Jones, Snater’s strides at a young age are somewhat common for girls in track and field and the gymnastics background, where Snater gained core strength, plays a big part in that.

“The girls with the gymnastics backgrounds have that body awareness and they pick up on things quicker. Gymnastics is good for track and field,” Jones said. “I noticed that Abby’s a lot stronger this year and that’ll make a difference for her in getting higher by the end of the season.”

For now, Snater is happy doing the pole vault and gymnastics, but when it comes to picking a favorite sport it’s a choice that is much tougher than she may have ever expected when she first took up pole vaulting.

“Gymnastics have kind of been my life since I was about eight years old, so it’s kind of hard to decide which one is my favorite. But I really like pole vaulting and I’m thinking about doing it in college,” she said.