Pole Vault! Emily Fung, reaching the stars


Photo courtesy of Louis DeSalvio

Emily Fung runs, in training for the speed she needs to excel in the sport of pole vault. Pole vault is extremely dangerous, and in order to practice the sport, Fung had to sign a death waiver.

Sabrina Richards, Editor

“Sometimes you have to push your comfort levels to excel and do other things. It is pretty fun once you get out of your shell,” said eighth grader, Emily Fung. For Faith middle schoolers, many opportunities arise for students to push their comfort levels, such as auditioning for a musical or trying out for a sports team. One girl, Emily Fung, pushes her limits in an extremely extraordinary way: pole vault.

Fung is the only girl, as well as the only middle school student, on the high school pole vault team.

“Being the only girl, you have to push yourself to try to beat the guys,” said Fung.

Pole vault is a track and field event that dates back to the 16th Century. The objective is to be the athlete who clears the tallest height without touching the horizontal pole. The highest vault ever recorded is 20 feet, so, for this, and many other reasons, pole vaulting is an extremely dangerous sport.

“Pole vault is a high school sport, and middle school students cannot do it because you have to sign a death waiver. You could basically die from hitting the pole on your neck and breaking it,” Fung said.

In many sports, athletes have to sacrifice time and effort, but in pole vault, Fung is sacrificing her whole life in case anything were to ever go wrong. This is a task that calls for great confidence and determination.

In order to clear the horizontal pole, a vaulter has to use his or her own pole. Poles used to be made out of bamboo sticks, and later, fiberglass; but today, poles are made from carbon fiber, which is lightweight and very flexible. Flexibility is key, as the vaulter has to release all of his or her energy to the pole as he or she jumps, and then the pole has to distribute the energy back to the person, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations’ website.

“I use the 11 foot pole and I am only like five feet, two inches-ish, and then all the guys have a 15 foot pole or a bit longer,” Fung said.

Vaulters sprint on the track, and stick their pole against the “stop board,” located at the back of a metal box in the ground. The pole bends and the vaulter is sent through the air and lands on a landing pad.

“When you get into the air, you’re like, ‘Where’s the ground?’ and it is pretty awesome!” Fung said.

Fung practices with the high school pole vault team because she “was given the opportunity because my brother does [pole vault] and then the coach saw me waiting for my brother, and he asked me to do pole vault, or at least try.”

And try she did. And success followed her.

“[Practices are going well] and right now, I am going over technique,” said Fung.

She is practicing for competitions during the spring, but as of now, Fung and her coach are not sure if she will be allowed to compete at the high school meets.

Either way, Fung is so incredibly fast that she may qualify for the high school track team, but she believes she will remain on the middle school track team.

“I think it is a great opportunity for her, and she can do something that not many people in her grade can do,” said Emily’s brother, Zachary Fung.

Friends of Fung also think her participation in this sport is marvelous.

“I think it is really cool how she is doing something she will learn in high school because now that she knows it in middle school she will be even better in high school, and she may actually win something freshman year,” said eighth grader, Christiana Vancura.

For now, Fung is not concerned about awards and recognition. She pushes her comfort levels and competes with the boys simply for the joy of the sport.

“Pole vault is fun because you have to trust yourself and it builds up trust in believing in yourself,” Fung said.