Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Vault stars sign with Arkansas

Leader sportswriter

The prestigious University of Arkansas track and field team got two more big-time signees Monday at Cabot High School, when senior pole-vaulters Lexi and Tori Weeks inked their national letters of intent to join the Razorback track and field team next fall.

The twin sisters have made quite a name for themselves since joining the Cabot track and field team, setting numerous records during their high school vaulting careers, and Monday’s signing was just an example of how far they’ve come since breaking into the sport in seventh grade.

“In seventh grade, when we started pole-vaulting, I had no idea this would even be an option going into senior year, visiting different colleges and stuff,” said Lexi Weeks, “especially just being an Arkansan, and with the Razorbacks being so special all over the state, going to Arkansas is pretty crazy and exciting.”

“A lot of Arkansas athletes grow up wanting to be an Arkansas Razorback and just being able to put on that uniform next year is going to be really awesome,” said Tori Weeks.

Even in seventh grade, when the twin sisters first tried the pole vault, the two excelled, and that became an athletic focus for each of them as time passed.

In addition to the training they do with the Cabot teams and coaches, the Weeks sisters also train with track coach Morry Sanders, who coaches high school track at Lake Hamilton and is a coach on the Arkansas Vault Club.

“We started in the seventh grade,” Lexi Weeks said. “Our track coach told us to come to high school and just try it out. So we did and we started doing it and we realized we were pretty good at it, so we continued.

“Then we started going to Arkansas Vault Club to train with Morry Sanders, and he helped us out a lot and helped us get to where we are today.”

Sanders has been working individually with the Weeks sisters since they were in eighth grade, and he says they’ve been great to work with ever since the first day he saw them.

“I own a pole vault training facility that they’ve been coming down to since they were in eighth grade,” said Sanders. “I’ve known them for a while and they’ve been phenomenal since day one.

“I coach track at Lake Hamilton. We’re in the same junior high conference, and when they were in seventh grade, I saw these two kids who didn’t really know what they were doing, but they were full speed and they looked athletic.

“I said ‘if you girls put some time in you’ll be good at it,’ and it kind of went from there.”

The Weeks sisters have continued to make strides with each year that’s passed. Even as freshmen, Lexi and Tori Weeks were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state for the pole vault, but that was when rules were in place that didn’t allow ninth-graders to compete at the high school level.

That year, both Lexi and Tori cleared 12 feet on the vault, but had to sit out state high school meets because they were freshmen. The winning girls’ vault in the state that year was 11 feet.

In their first high school season, the Weeks sisters cleared 12 feet at the 7A state meet to finish one and two there, with Tori finishing first. Their stellar sophomore campaigns were topped by an even greater junior season.

At the most recent state meet, Lexi Weeks finished first after clearing 13-06.50, breaking the state record. Tori Weeks finished second, respectively, clearing 13-00.75. The third-place height cleared last year was 11-06.00.

A little over a week later at the Meet of Champs in Heber Springs, the Weeks sisters finished one and two yet again, with Lexi Weeks becoming one of the handful of high school girls in the nation, and the first in Arkansas, to clear the 14-foot barrier.

“As far as girls go, I’ve had a few girls that were very technically sound, but I’ve never had girls that were that technically sound and that athletic,” Sanders said.

“They’re just so athletic that it’s almost too easy. All I have to do is just explain something to them one time, and the next trip down the runway, they’re doing it. They’re both probably the best girls I’ve ever coached. They’re just phenomenal, and I’ve had some good girls over the years.”

The Weeks sisters have also done very well in sprinting, relay and hurdling events in their time at CHS, having racked up a number of top-five finishes at all of the big state meets, but the pole vault is where the sisters have excelled the most.

Although they’ve accomplished more than enough to appease most competitors, they each have set even bigger goals for themselves this year, their final one at CHS.

“My goal this year is to break the 14-foot barrier,” Tori Weeks said. “Right now my P.R. (personal record) is 13-3. I think I’m sitting in good position to jump 14, if not higher. I’d really like to see myself getting in the mid-14s this year.”

“I got 14 even last year at Meet of Champs,” Lexi Weeks said. “There’s an indoor record and an outdoor national record that I’m trying to break. The outdoor is 14-7.25 or something like that. So I’m aiming for that, and then after that, 15 would be the next goal, but that’s pretty high, so we’ll see about that.”

“Maybe in college,” Tori Weeks responded.