Pole vault preview with Bob Phillips

BLACKSBURG – After a stellar year for Virginia Tech’s track and field program, there is much to be excited about entering the 2018 indoor and outdoor seasons.

The program earned three ACC titles, set numerous school records and returns the majority of the student-athletes who accomplished the impressive feat.

Assistant coach Bob Phillips, who oversees the pole vault group, sat down with Virginia Tech’s HokieVision and answered questions for the upcoming season. To watch the video of the interview in its entirety, click here.

The returners for the group on the men’s side are Jaelyn Demory, Torben Laidig, James Steck and Deakin Volz. Laidig boasts the program record for outdoor at 18 feet, 8.25 inches (5.70 meters), while Volz owns the best indoor mark at 18 feet, 6.75 inches (5.66 meters) in school history. The group has combined for 11 All-ACC honors.

On the women’s side, the student-athletes coming back to Blacksburg are Hannah Meador and Olivia Privitera. Privitera, a redshirt senior, vaulted a career height at the NCAA East Preliminaries this past spring, placing 14th, just two spots shy of punching her ticket to Eugene. The Massachusetts native owns the fifth-highest mark in school history for outdoor, clearing a height of 13 feet, 5.25 inches (4.10 meters).

The pole vault group welcomes three newcomers (Rachel Baxter, Lisa Gunnarsson and Paige Ritter) on the women’s side and one on the men’s side (Joel Leon Benitez) this upcoming season.

Q: What are some of your takeaways from last season?

PHILLIPS: “Well, we had a pretty good indoor season last year, but we struggled some outdoors. So, we have placed more of a focus in practice on consistency in clearing bars. I think from a talent standpoint we are good, and if we work hard, we have a chance to do something with that talent.”

Q: You got arguably three of the better young vaulters in the world this upcoming season for pole vault. What has you excited about the newcomers?

PHILLIPS: “We were lucky to get two girls that talented signed in the same year. Their technical fundamentals are good, which helps a lot and their speed is good, which is something that I haven’t always had in the past. Right now, those two, Olivia [Privitera] and Paige [Ritter], who won’t jump this year, all four of them have really good speed, which is really helpful. Practices are going well, they all have set PRs of one sort or another in poles and grips and things like that. The signs are good, we just have to stay healthy and keep focus.”

Q: Going into this season, is this the most talent you’ve had on the both of the men and women’s sides? What are the expectations for this season?

PHILLIPS: “We are not as deep as we have been in the past, we are a little smaller. Although by some teams’ standards, we’re not small. But the quality of the group is the highest we’ve ever had. Expectations wise, records and medals and those sorts of things as it is, my expectations for those kids is that they give me consistent effort in practice, consistent performances in meets and if they do that and pay attention to the details, the other things will come.”

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