With her pole-vaulting performance two weekends ago in the women’s track meet against Harvard and Brown, freshman Natalie Gengel put herself in historic company. Her mark of 3.80 meters set a freshman and school record. But when you consider the fact that she has yet to perfect her technique, Cornell and other national competitors should take notice.
“I always wanted to be an Olympic gymnast,” Gengel said. “But with the way everything is going, I know I’m going in a good direction.”
Her direction may lead her towards the top of the national pole-vaulting standings. This past weekend, the Princeton, N.J., native headed to New York City to compete in the Millrose Games against some of the nation’s best. Despite the presence of Arkansas, North Carolina and powerhouse Big-10 schools, Gengel was able to finish seventh.
[img_assist|nid=21157|title=Rush of blood to the head|desc=Freshman pole vaulter Natalie Gengel finished seventh this past weekend at the Millrose Games, held in New York City.|link=none|align=left|width=78|height=100]
“I felt very good about her performance,” said women’s track and field head coach Lou Duesing. “I thought she competed well against some very good competition. She handled everything very well, especially for a freshman.”
Refusing to use her age and inexperience as an excuse, Gengel still wishes she performed better in the Big Apple.
“I was excited to jump against people from the Big-10 and other big pole vault schools,” Gengel said. “I was kind of surprised, but I felt I could have done better.”
Gengel has yet to get accustomed to the usual pole-vault techniques used by other nationally recognized athletes.
“One of the things about the vault is that you get on bigger poles and you get more steps as you get better,” Duesing said. “How much she improves is limited by how much speed and power she can generate. With a short run, she won’t go higher, but in the long run she can.”
Before she jumps, Gengel normally takes 10 steps, as opposed to the traditional 16. This sometimes puts her at a disadvantage because she cannot generate enough speed to clear certain heights. In addition, Gengel was trained in high school to use a shorter pole. So far though, she has become accustomed to using longer ones.
“I never did the long run in high school,” Gengel said. “A longer run gives you more speed, with a longer pole.”
When you take into consideration that she altered her pole vault routine and still managed to finish amongst nationally ranked company, the possibilities seem endless.
“I had a great time [at the Millrose Games],” Gengel said. “It was great to see Olympians jump. It would be great to be an Olympian one day.”
“What is critically important is her confidence and how comfortable she is,” Duesing said. “We try to work on things in stages.”
Gengel is close to making nationals, which requires a height of 3.95 meters. Already clearing the height of 3.80 meters, Gengel is close to putting another mark on her freshman resume.