AKRON, Ohio – Shawn Barber keeps raising the bar, and so too, the expectations grow higher for the University of Akron’s champion pole vaulter.
“He’s a great athlete. You can’t put any limitation on him,” Akron track and field coachDennis Mitchell said.
Barber, a junior, set a collegiate indoor pole vault record Sunday, clearing 19-3 at a preseason indoor meet in Benton, Texas. The mark also broke the Canadian indoor record. Barber is a Canadian citizen who came to Akron from Kingwood (Texas) High School.
The low-key nature of the meet at the University of Texas-El Paso, as well as the presence of other highly regarded vaulters, helped push Barber past 19 feet for the first time indoors.
“There was not a whole lot of pressure and it was a good chance to have some fun, and that’s what helped me do so well,” he said. “It was a nice turn of events – definitely not something I was looking for, but I don’t want to say I was surprised.”
Because he was competing as an unattached athlete at a preseason event, the mark is considered a collegiate record, but will not go into NCAA record books.
That’s not to say his name won’t be there soon enough. Mitchell said putting Barber’s name in the NCAA record book will be among the goals this winter, and that could happen as early as this Saturday at the third Akron Pole Vault Convention at Stiles Field House.
Beyond the NCAA mark, six meters (19-8) and 20 feet could be heights within Barber’s reach.
“We’re all eyeing that, that’s for sure,” Mitchell said.
Barber isn’t trying to get ahead of himself.
“I don’t think (the record) will change how I approach this season,” he said. “My goal is to keep getting better, and as long as I do that, I’ll have a great season.”
Barber won the NCAA indoor championship last year at 18-10¼, which stood as his career best until Sunday, when Barber switched to a longer pole (17-2½). Barber has one of the highest grips of any pole vaulter in the world, so his potential for clearing higher bars is real, Mitchell said.
“He was experimenting with some poles down there and it worked out,” Mitchell said. “He’s getting faster and he’s getting a lot stronger. He’s growing up and still a young kid.”
Barber, 20, will be among the main attractions at the Pole Vault Convention, which begins at 7 p.m. The event is to feature several potential Olympians. Former American record holder Jeff Hartwig is to offer color commentary during the competition. Also, 2004 gold medalist and Westlake native Tim Mack will speak at 11:30 a.m.
Among those scheduled to compete are 2012 Olympian Jeremy Scott, 2014 national champion Sam Kendrick, 2013 USA national champ Jordan Scott, three-time USATF champion Mark Hollis, two-time NCAA All-American Colton Ross, five-time Canadian national champion Jason Wurster, 2011 NCAA champ Melissa Gergel; NCAA Division II record holder Katie Nageotte of North Royalton, and Akron All-Americans Claire Lucas and Caroline Hasse.