Chappell returns to vaulting roots |

Chappell returns to vaulting roots

Dave Price

As Chris Chappell sat with a video camera in hand and watched an elite field of pole vaulters compete during the National Pole Vault Summit Friday night at the Reno Hilton, he couldn’t help but dream that there will be a time when he vaults on that same stage.

“I was talking to my girlfriend, Katrina (Carlsson), about it the other night,” Chappell said. “I remember sitting at this Summit as a little kid, looking up to all these guys and dreaming about being there, and each day I’m getting closer to being one of those guys.”

Chappell is already part of a University of Arizona pole vaulting corps that collectively rates among the best in the nation, and he has visions of soaring higher and higher. Those visions are pretty much the same as they were during his days at Douglas High School, where he was a two-time state champion and one of only five prep vaulters in Nevada to clear 16 feet,

Chappell had his chance to compete on Saturday and vaulted 16-feet, 2-3/4 inches at the Reno Hilton. The height was off his best of 17-1, set indoors last year at the Mountain Pacific Conference Championships, yet it was a good way to start off what he hopes will be a successful year in 2003.

“I’m just kind of working on my consistency,” Chappell said. “I’m getting a little bit more exposure jumping in the big meets and that’s only going to make me better.”

The 21-year-old Arizona junior has no specific goals, although the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships June 11-15 in Sacramento is definitely a target.

“I try not to put a number for my goal,” he said. “I’d like to jump 18 feet. That’s kind of a mark for me, but this year I think my main goal is to compete well and to hopefully be at the national meet.”

For Chappell the road to Sacramento won’t be an easy one because he will need to crack the top five at the regional championships, which will be held May 30-31 at Stanford.

“Our region is pretty tough,” Chappell said. “There’s several guys who have jumped 17 feet or higher, so it’s going to be tough to make it into the national meet.”

Tough competition won’t be anything new. After all, he goes up against some of the best in the nation every day in practice with a group that includes fellow juniors Michael Mortensen (best of 17-7) and Kevin Opalka (17-5 and fifth in the Pac-10). Among the women, Amy Linnen placed fifth for the Wildcats at the NCAA Championships indoor meet last year.

“We have a great group down at Arizona and I think all of our guys are in the running to make the national meet,” Chappell said. “We have three 17-footers, including myself, and another kid who jumped 16 feet in high school, so it’s a great group to train with. And the thing is, we’re all Friday night, Derek Miles cleared 19-feet to win a duel against American record holder Jeff Hartwig during the elite men’s event before a crowd of 1,800 in the Hilton Theater. Olympic gold medalist Stacy Dragila won the women’s competition at 14-7.

“It’s always great to come back to the Summit,” Chappell said. “This is something I grew up with. This is where I learned how to pole vault. I used to pole vault once a year and it was here, so to come back and see everybody and learn a little bit it’s just phenomenal.”