Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SPORT STORY >> Cabot jumper makes nationals on first try

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Vaulting out of Cabot as a two-time girls state Indoor champion and one time Outdoor champion with a 12-6 career best, Ariel Voskamp knew she could have pole vaulted at Arkansas State on a full scholarship and been very good.

Still, she thought it worth taking less scholarship money from the University of Arkansas on the prospect she would become even better.

Despite what has amounted to two redshirt years, one because she redshirted in 2012 then was sidelined by a stress fracture in 2013, the risk seems to have paid off for the third-year sophomore. At this week’s NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., Voskamp is one of four Bryan Compton coached vaulters for head coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks competing after advancing through the NCAA West Outdoor Preliminary meet.

At the SEC Outdoor, with teammates Sandi Morris (14-9) and Danielle Nowell (13-11.25) finishing second, Voskamp completed a 1-2-3 finish for the SEC champion Razorbacks while vaulting her personal best 13-11.25 in Lexington, Ky. which she followed at 13-3 at the West Prelim that Arkansas hosted at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

The third-place SEC Outdoor finishes from in-staters Voskamp and high jumper Kirsten Hesseltine of Springdale Har-Ber, also qualifying at the West Prelim to advance to Eugene, especially gratified field events coach Compton.

“We have got two Arkansas girls with Ariel Voskamp and Kirsten and both of them have done really well,” Compton said. “Both of them are bronze medalists at the SEC which is hard to do. Ariel had jumped liked 12-7 out of high school. She wanted to come to school here and we offered a little bit of scholarship and her parents are great people and just support her all the way. Same thing with Kirstie. Kirstie was fixing to go play volleyball at Campbell University. We had seen her jump and said here is 5-8 straight out of Arkansas and we know they do volleyball then just a little bit of track after the season is over with so we thought we could do a lot with Kirsten and it came out great for us.”

Obviously Hesseltine picked the right sport, and just as obvious to her, Voskamp said, she picked the right program even as she continues to admire Earl Bell, the former Arkansas State Olympian still training vaulters in Jonesboro.

“Arkansas State gave me a full ride and Earl Bell was there and I had vaulted at Earl’s a lot,” Voskamp said. “ But I realized that all the success that Compton has had, I thought I would flourish more at Arkansas than I would at Jonesboro.”

She thought she would flourish more at Arkansas for the long run even though for the short run she assumes she would have quickly vaulted ahead at Arkansas State.

“If I had gone to Jonesboro I would have already been one of the top vaulters going into the Sun Belt Conference,” and this is SEC and that’s kind of hard to turn down. It’s just a great program.”

Especially with national co-leader Morris, a junior, on the premises, as well as senior Nowell, sophomore Zimlich and so many great All-Americans before them like NCAA Outdoor record-holder and former two-time NCAA Indoor champion Tina Sutej, U.S. Olympian April Steiner Bennett, back in Fayetteville training for 2016, Jonesboro’s Katie Stripling and Stephanie Irwin of Mount Ida among others.

“Before I came I knew all the names, April, Katie, Tina, and then you get here and get to meet them,” Voskamp said. “It’s pretty special. Why would you ever want to be the best with no competition? If you are going to try to be the best in the conference that is No. 1 in the nation that is much more of an accomplishment.”

What sets Compton, apart?

“He definitely holds us accountable,” Voskamp said. “He already has an expectation of us so there is no room for us to doubt ourselves. We have to live up to that expectation and we have to work hard. People already know that Arkansas Razorback vaulters are good so we have to live up to that.”