Eastern pole vault coach Kyle Ellis has set out to change the culture of Eastern pole vaulting. A 2009 graduate of Eastern, Ellis was a stand out in his two-year career as a Panther. Ellis held the indoor record until last year, when one of his own, red-shirt sophomore Mick Viken, took it down.
It was Ellis’s coaching ability that brought Viken to Eastern from Madison Wis., and he has now pulled in another recruit, red-shirt sophomore Jade Riebold, a nationally ranked transfer from the University of Georgia. Riebold came to Eastern after he saw the results Ellis had with junior Abbie Schmitz.
“(Schmitz) improved like two feet with him and that was really good, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” Riebold said. “Just basically, he’s a really good coach.”
Schmitz came to the Panthers as a walk-on who had not seen much success at the high school level.
Schmitz held a personal record of just 9 feet. Not exactly college pole vaulting material.
“Her PR in high school was only 9 feet, which wasn’t very good,” Ellis said. “That doesn’t even get you close to sectionals or state or anything like that.”
Throughout her workouts, Ellis saw that Schmitz was a hard worker with a dedicated attitude. So when it came down to make the final decision, Ellis stuck up for Schmitz.
“So, we were talking about it, it actually came down to her and a high jump girl making the team, so (the head coach) almost didn’t let her be on the team to begin with,” Ellis said. “I kind of stuck up for her, I was like, ‘You know, I think she could be pretty decent, you might let her have a chance,’ so he ended up letting her be on the team, and her first year she improved two feet.”
In her first season, Schmitz jumped 11 feet, finishing toward the bottom end of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Then, in what would be her sophomore season, Schmitz would finish just 1 inch short of breaking the Eastern indoor record and would break the school’s outdoor record in the following spring. Schmitz would also go on to win both the indoor and outdoor OVC championships.
Schmitz said her big improvement was a result of Ellis’ coaching.
“It was pretty much all coaching,” she said. “(Ellis) pretty much reinvented my vault and changed everything I do, correctly though. It all kind of came together to improve my numbers.”
Now, Ellis has big expectations for his pole vaulters.
“On the guys side, I think we have five pole vaulters that can make it to regionals,” he said.
With the success Viken had last season, Ellis is now expecting even bigger things out of red-shirt senior Joe Noonan and junior Scott Mammoser.
For both the men’s and women’s teams, Ellis said that the team’s biggest competition is going to be themselves.
“(Schmitz’s) best competition is going to be (Riebold), same thing on the guys’ side,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be a competition between themselves.”
In off-season practice runs, Riebold has jumped 13 feet and was close to 13 feet, 6 inches. Well above the school’s indoor record.
The Panthers open the indoor season on Dec. 9 with the Early Bird at Lantz Fieldhouse. Schmitz says with the way she has been progressing, the Panthers are in for a good season full of broken records.
“I think I can (break the school record), but I have Jade right behind me to take it down right after, so I think it will just be a big year of breaking records for the both of us.”