Triad High School senior Claire Buck began training for the 2015 track and field season knowing that barring any catastrophe she would be in contention for the Class 2A state championship in the pole vault in Charleston in late May.
An accomplished vaulter despite competing in the event for fewer than two years, Buck had gone from clearing 11-feet, 3-inches and placing fifth in the state finals to a height of 12-6 and placing third a year ago.
And so when an early season slump prevented her from reaching the heights she hoped, Buck didn’t panic.
“I was having a few little issues with my technique. It was like my form was getting better, but I just hadn’t put it all together with my speed and strength,“ Buck said. “I’m getting better with it now and I feel like I can go higher still.”
Last Friday at the Collinsville Invitational, Buck not only went higher than she ever gone with an effort of 12-7 , but the vault was the highest of any Class 2A athlete in the state this season.
But Buck still wasn’t done.
After clearing 12-7 on her first attempt, Buck had three attempts at the the magic 13-0 mark, barely missing on the first two.
“I felt like I was up high enough. I think I hit the bar on the way up on the first try and then I tipped it going over on another attempt,” Buck said. “But I felt like I had two real good attempts at 13 feet.
“That’s one of the goals this year. I want to go over 13 feet. I feel like that’s very realistic.”
Named as the Belleville News-Democrat Athlete of the Week for her effort at Collinsville, Buck also said this week that she has accepted a scholarship offer to compete at the University of Wisconsin next year.
A member of the Big Ten Conference, Wisconsin is a national power in NCAA I women’s track and field. Buck’s decision to become a Badger is a good one according to Knights coach Brian Weiss, who has seen his standout go from a beginner in the pole vault as a sophomore to one of the state’s best as a senior.
“A lot of Big Ten schools recruited Claire, and Wisconsin had the best qualities to take her to the next level and excel. As good as Claire is now, she has a lot higher heights that she can clear and Wisconsin’s program will help her reach those heights,” Weiss said. “ She is also an excellent student and Wisconsin is known for their academic excellence. There is no doubt Claire will thrive there.”
While Buck had interest from several other Big Ten schools, she said her choice came down to Illinois State and Iowa State. Also an elite athlete in the long jump and high jump, Buck is sad her days in those events are coming to an end, but is excited to see what she can do in one event in college.
“I’m not good enough to be able to compete in those events at Wisconsin, so I guess I’m OK with giving them up,” Buck said. “On the other hand, it will be nice to be able to focus and train for just the pole vault.
“I really like Wisconsin. The coaches are great and they seem like really good people. The academics are outstanding and it’s a Big Ten school. I’m very excited about the future.”
Buck will major in Kinesiology at Wisconsin ,with the hopes of a career as a physical therapist.
But for the moment Buck is looking forward to attempting to win a state championship. Aided by Knights assistant coach Eric Postma, a former collegiate pole vaulter, Buck already owns the state record at 12-7.
“Coach Postma is great. Because of some crazy hours with his job, he wasn’t able to be at practice a few times this year and I think that’s another reason I haven’t been as consistent as I would have this season,” Buck said. “He was a very good college pole vaulter and he’s really helped me a lot.”
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.