USF Pole Vaulters climbing to new heights

Stone Baker and Kobe Babin are taking the USF Bulls to new heights in pole vaulting. Baker qualified for the Nationals last year as a junior, vaulting 17 feet 2 and 3/4 inches. Babin, just a sophomore, broke the school record during the indoor season going 17 feet 7 and 3/4 inches setting a new school record in February. The two teammates are good friends that push each other to go higher.

"Having a teammate pushing you along like I have here right now, him and I battling, coaching each other, Hey what are we going to do today at practice to get better," said Baker. "So just having that teammate along with you that's trying to hit those same marks and goals as you is a huge help."

"I need competition, so when I jumped to 17-8, there were a lot of people over that height already," said Babin. "There was like five or six of us that were over it. I like competition."

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Don Marsh has been coaching vaulters at USF for 21 years. Baker has been not only a great pole vaulter for him, but the senior graduate is like an assistant coach for him. Babin, who is younger and full of talent, is just starting to see his potential. Both have an eye at clearing 18 feet this season. Marsh says one key needs to get them to the height.

"Technique, really, it's all about technique," said Marsh. "Our kids have all the poles they need that's a big factor in college to have the right poles. Our kids have all the poles they need, but it's just getting technically better."

USF hasn't had a pole vaulter clear 18 feet yet. That is some rare air up there, but Baker and Babin have done it as practice. So what's it like clearing such heights?

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"Freedom, smile," said Babin. "It's fun. It's like jumping off a mini cliff."

"A little bit of fear at first", said Baker. "If you stick with it, you'll get use to it, and you'll enjoy it."

Both are a long way from the NCAA record of 19 feet 6.7 inches, but the thought of winning a National Championship if out of sight isn't out of mind.

"I've got some time to get there," said Babin. "There are some insanely good people in the vault this year. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to get there. It's a long shot, but I think I might be able to get there."