By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.— They always say that pressure makes diamonds. Iron sharpens Iron.
For Brandon Reaves, being exposed to the competition of the National level was crazy for sure. But it was definitely a good learning experience.
“Nationals was like a wrench in my stomach the day that it came. I wasn’t in focus as we went through the pre-event instruction and I was spacing out during the queueing before we started,” Reaves said. “Nationals was so crazy, seeing yourself in front of thousands of people on a giant screen. That pressure definitely got to me.
“Regional’s was a different story though, feeling more like an Invitational for like, the Willamette falls invitational for example. Except the prize was Nationals instead.”
Reaves competed with the Valley Track Club at the Pole Vault, finishing third in the Oregon Association Junior Olympic (JO) Championships with a vault of 10-feet-6-inches and had finished fifth at the USATF Region 13 JO Championships with a PR of 11-feet-5.75-inch leap to qualify for the USATF JO Nationals meet.
At the National meet is where he had his hiccup, finishing 32nd with a vault of 10-feet-6-inches. The pressure-cooker situation for the McKay athlete has helped Reaves with his mental approach to meets and vaulting and to work through clearing his mind. A huge amount of that help came way of Coach Foley with the program.
“I’ve been taught a huge amount by Coach Foley about blocking out distractions and clearing my head, and building routines in order to produce consistent results,” said Reaves “Some practices where I wasn’t pressured, I felt the potential for heights I would’ve originally been scared of, on poles that I dreamt of being on my first year. Things like that made me realize there was potential for my hopeful breaking of the school record and making the OSAA state meet.
“As far as breaking school records goes, it’s second to none for me. I think about it every day, morning and night. Sometimes it’s my last thought before I go to bed. Visualizing the technique I’ll need to clear that bar and watch the bar fall away from me as I land back in the mat. That want for me borders on an obsession, and it’s the main fuel for just about any work I put in.”
And as the calendar flips into May, the unknown summer ahead and next Spring season around the corner, Reaves is getting back at it in preparations to vault over the next height. Mix in the fire and passion of how this season was not meant to be with Coronavirus, the goal to break the McKay school record (that currently stands 13-feet-six-inches, Reaves cleared 12-feet in practice with plenty of room) and make it to State starts now with the preparation of himself mentally and physically for that opportunity when it arrives.
“We’re now getting the nationalists back together and starting some baseline training in order to keep ourselves active, but you can bet I’ll be training and putting in extra hours because I want that record that I wanted so badly this year,” said Reaves. “Although it’ll be difficult, my main focuses will be technique and speed, as well as overcoming a lot of mental barriers that come with new poles and heights.
“While there are many, many parts to a vault that all change the dynamic completely, our baseline is just things like, how much do we need to weigh, how strong is our body feeling, how fast can we get. It’s like having a strong solid foundation to build your vault off of. Without that health your technique gets cut short and injuries are too common in pole vault.”
Just small things that will be crucial for the next step, which will be vaulting and maintaining that health to maximize quality reps when the opportunity presents itself. Until then, it’s the here and now.