Sophomores Lily Simmons and Lauren Berube do a lot together. They are both math majors, roommates, and teammates on the women’s track team. And following the Maine State Invitational Meet, both Berube and Simmons now share the Bates Women’s pole vault school record.
Three quarters of an inch is what separates Berube and Simmons from the rest of Bates Women’s pole vault history. Simmons first broke the school record of 11 feet, 1 inch, and in less than two weeks time, Berube matched Simmon’s vault of 11 feet, 1 inch and three quarters. “If it stands at the end of the year, both of our names will go up side by side,” said Simmons.
This marks the first time either Berube or Simmons achieved a personal pole vaulting record since high school. “It’s been two or three years since I’ve gotten a PR,” said Berube. Simmons experienced a similar time gap between personal records. “It was the same for me because I jumped 11 [feet], 1 [inch], and one quarter in high school so this [difference between records] was a half an inch,” said Simmons. “So I waited a long time for that.”
Though Berube and Simmons share many commonalities, they discovered their love for vaulting differently.
Simmons started pole vaulting her sophomore year of high school. She was introduced to the sport through her best friend on the swim team. “His sister vaulted, and I watched videos and I thought that it looked like a lot of fun,” said Simmoms. “My dad found out that we had a vault, that there was a vault on the [high school] track team, and I just kind of gave it a shot.”
Berube was a competitive gymnast until the age of 12. After a few years off from gymnastics, an unexpected opportunity arose. “When you turn 14, the 14-15 age group for summer track, you can do pole vault,” said Berube. “So my coach said, you’ve done gymnastics before, you need to vault to get points for the meet.” Berube obliged, and has continued to pole vault ever since. She credits her middle school track coach for introducing her to the sport. “If she didn’t suggest it, I probably wouldn’t have ever tried,” said Berube.
Since coming to Bates, Berube has enjoyed the luxury of not having to wear a helmet while vaulting. “In high school I actually had to wear a helmet, and I think it’s about five states in the United States require helmets,” said Berube. “I loved coming to Bates because I didn’t have to wear a helmet. It’s like a bike helmet we had to wear, and so I thought it was the silliest thing because I would watch Olympic people vault and they wouldn’t have a helmet.”
Before coming to Bates, Simmons recalls being scared watching a video of Berube vaulting for her high school team. “I was like, oh, she’s from Maine, am I going to have to wear a helmet?”
Luckily, Simmons and Berube don’t need to worry about the embarrassment of wearing bike helmets anymore. Instead, the vaulters are free to focus on more important things, such as their pre-vault routines. “I think every vaulter has different pre vault rituals once [they’re] on the runway,” said Simmons. “When I get on the runway, I put on chalk on my hands and then sit on the runway, and then I close my eyes and I think about the jump.”
Berube prefers to use Stickum spray before vaulting. “I always stand, spray my hands [with Stickum spray], clap my hands together, and then I get my grip, and then I feel the bend of the pole, and then I go,” said Berube. “It’s so addicting, I can’t go away from it, I have to spray my hands before every single vault.”
This past weekend at the Bowdoin Invitational, Berube and Simmons yet again put up identical jumps, clearing 10 feet, 8 inches. This coming weekend, February 28-29, the teammates will travel to Middlebury College to compete at the DIII New England Meet. Following New England’s, the Tuft’s Last Chance Meet will provide, literally, a last chance to qualify for the NCAA DIII National Meet. On the thought of going to Nationals, Berube said, “I think we definitely want to try to get to 12 feet, because for Nationals they take top 20, and so it varies every year, but most of the time it’s around 12 or high 11s where the cutoff is for nationals. That’s a dream of mine to go to Nationals.” As both are only sophomores, there will be plenty of time over the next two years to chase and achieve that dream.