The Oberlin Review

Pole Vaulter Sarah Voit Finds Success in Her Very First Season

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College first-year and pole vaulter Sarah Voit
is having a spectacular rookie season with two school records and a North Coast Athletic Conference Championship under her belt.

At the Case Western Reserve University Invitational last Saturday, first-year pole vaulter Sarah Voit cleared 11’-03.75” to win the event — something she has done at seven of the 11 meets she has competed at during her collegiate career. With two school records and one North Coast Athletic Conference Championship already under her belt, Voit is favored to win the Outdoor NCAC Championship next weekend at Kenyon College.

However, Voit’s sights are set even higher. With just four weekends of competition left, she is hoping to qualify for the NCAA Championships, which will take place May 23–25 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

According to Voit, qualifying for nationals would be the icing on the cake of what has been a spectacular rookie season. She was named Athlete of the Week during the week of Feb. 25, when she broke the school indoor record at the NCAC Last Chance Meet by clearing 12’-01.50” — the best performance in the conference, the third best in the region, and the 15th best in Division III. At the conclusion of the indoor season, Voit earned U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Great Lakes Region honors — an accolade only the top five individuals in each event from each region receive.

She was again named Athlete of the Week for the week of April 9, when she broke the outdoor school record at the Bob Kahn Invite by clearing 12’-01.50”, topping teammate and College junior Grace Fin- ney’s career-best mark of 12’-00.00”. That jump was the best in the conference and 10th best in the country at the time. However, Voit claims she is unconcerned with records and accolades.

“I’m not really motivated by external things,” she said. “I’m always just focused on self-improvement. I can always keep improving.”

Voit hasn’t beaten her personal-record leap of 12’-03” yet, which she cleared during her senior year of high school — her best performance so far at Oberlin has been 12’-01.5”. She said she doesn’t know what specifically she will need to clear in order to qualify for nationals yet, but if she PRs, she should make it.

“My coach [Ray Harris] says that I should shoot for 12’-07,” Voit said. “I know that I can get there, and it’s in the back of my mind every single day.”

Voit credits both her coach and her teammates for keeping her motivated despite already having accomplished so much. Finney, who was the NCAC Outdoor Champion last year, has been pushing Voit to be her best all year long.

“Before [Finney] came back [for the indoor season], I would run maybe one lap on the indoor track for warm-up,” Voit said. “Then [Finney] got here and was like, ‘I’m running four laps. I’m doing extra lifts. I’m pushing myself every single day.’ She takes practice very seriously and is a really good teammate who makes us all better.”

Finney said that Voit has inspired her in a similar way.

“I’ve been so impressed by how quickly [Voit] adjusted to college track,” she said. “She carries herself and competes like a seasoned athlete, which is extremely difficult as a first-year. I’m very glad she chose to come to Oberlin, because after her visit, we were positive she wouldn’t.”

Although a native of Cincinnati, Voit said she originally wanted to attend a big school in a big city, outside of Ohio.

“I ended up in the opposite place, which is really interesting,” Voit said. “I applied to only giant schools, and my parents said, ‘Maybe you should apply to one school that’s a little different, just in case,’ and so I applied to Oberlin. As time went on, it became an increasingly better option.”

Voit said having the ability to succeed in the classroom and have a life outside of track appealed to her, but, of course, the dominance and camaraderie of Oberlin’s track and field team is what really drew her in.

She said that she and the other young pole vaulters call College senior and pole vaulting captain Jahkeem Wheatley their mother duck because they always follow him around. But when Wheatley isn’t around, Finney is like their older sister. The pole vaulters have great chemistry, regularly attending brunch together and cooking together.

According to Voit, the closeness of the pole vaulters, but also the entirety of the team, is what makes the track and field program at Oberlin so successful.

“The team culture is a big reason why we’ve been so dominant,” she said. “We really do support each other and love each other and make an effort to help one another out. The coaches emphasize this as well by never putting us down or yelling at us. It’s just a really positive environment.”

With a long career ahead of her and plenty of time to work toward some lofty goals, Voit said she just wants to continue chasing PRs. Voit already has near-perfect form — something that being a gymnast for 15 years helped with — but said there are minor tweaks she can make to her technique. For example, she’s focusing on rocking back in her swing more, so that when the pole unbends, she can get more air under her.

When an athlete accomplishes so much so early on, it’s natural to wonder how much better they can get. Voit, however, insists that the best is yet to come.

“I don’t really know how much higher I can jump, but I definitely want to be able to say I cleared 13 feet at some point in my career,” she said. “I just want to keep pushing and see how much better I can get.”

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