Sprinting down the runway with speed and precision is a must for Linganore junior Carter Holsinger as he competes in the pole vault.
But what’s running through his mind plays a huge role, too.
“When I pick up the pole, I always tell myself, ‘Nothing is impossible,’” he said. “And running down the runway, I always think about that, plus whatever I’m trying to focus on for that jump.”
That “nothing is impossible” mindset helps explain what Holsinger has achieved in one of the most technically demanding individual sporting events imaginable.
On April 13 at North Hagerstown High School in the Chuck Zonis Invitational, Holsinger soared to a vault of 15 feet, 4 inches. If he had cleared that at the MPSSAA state championships, he would’ve broken the state-meet mark of 15-3 held by Stephen Decatur’s Bradley Hollowell.
And keep in mind, Holsinger still has plenty of vaults left in his high school career, with most of this spring’s postseason meets and his entire senior indoor and outdoor seasons still in front of him.
He’s gunning for the high 16s next school year. And if his career trajectory at Linganore is any guide, he has a good shot at such a goal.
Each year with the Lancers, Holsinger has made staggeringly steady improvement, busting through 14- and 15-foot barriers.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Linganore boys track and field coach Bill Eckard said. “He’s reaching places that we didn’t expect him to hit this fast.”
David Bly, who is Holsinger’s vault coach and helms the Lancers’ girls track and field team, believed such progress was possible when he started working with Holsinger as a freshman.
That’s because Holsinger came to Linganore with the building blocks of a pole vaulter. Thanks to participating in gymnastics since he 5 years old, he had agility and core strength. He also was a well-rounded athlete, one who currently competes in the 300-meter hurdles, triple jump and 4x200 relay for the Lancers.
With those essentials already in place, Bly — a 1997 South Carroll grad who’s been involved in pole vault for over 30 years — could focus on technique. Bly, who used to work with vaulters on the West Coast, found a promising East Coast pupil in Holsinger.
“Carter’s just one of those very gifted athletes,” Bly said. “I can show him something, and he can pick up the muscle memory. Within one or two reps, he’s got it down. He can make a technical change super fast.”
Any successful vault starts with a good sprint. Holsinger’s been working on that a lot this year, and a vaulter’s runway dash requires more than just speed. Bly compared it to a dance, which requires carefully choreographed steps.
“Every vaulter is counting his steps when he’s running, if he’s doing it right. Because he has to know exactly when to start lowering that pole,” Bly said. “If he lowers it one stride too early, one stride too late, it’s going to be off on his plant, and then nothing’s going to work out on the top end.”
The top end, of course, is what everyone ultimately notices, especially with athletes as skilled as Holsinger.
“He’s really at a point now, in his junior year, where he’s jumping about a foot and half to two feet consistently over his top hand, which is pretty elite for a high school vaulter,” Bly said.
At the Zonis, Holsinger competed in the long jump, triple jump and 300 hurdles before doing the pole vault. He was understandably tired but motivated to take a stab at that 15-4 vault.
“I missed it on my first two attempts,” he said. “I was like, ‘Carter, you’ve got to do this.’ I already made 15 feet that day so I was pretty happy.”
He was even happier, not to mention relieved, after clearing his desired height.
“I had a lot of teammates that were watching, a lot of other teams as well,” he said. “When I walked back to the team, they were all cheering. It was great to know my team backed me and to know that they believed in me.”