Columbus North lost its best girls pole vaulter in school history to graduation last year, but the Bull Dogs just keep cranking out more vaulters.

Freshman Adrienne Salemme cleared a freshman school-record 10 feet, 4 inches to place second in last week’s Franklin Sectional. Another freshman, Sami Heathcote, cleared 9-6 to place fifth.

Both will compete in today’s Franklin Regional.

“I know that surprised a lot of people, but it really didn’t surprise me,” North pole vault coach Dale Stelting said. “I’ve been telling them they were 10-foot vaulters since last year. But with Adrienne coming out with the (back) injury and Sami running hurdles — and we’ve had really bad weather all season — it just hadn’t happened.”

Salemme fractured her back doing gymnastics for Victory Gymnastics Academy this winter. She completed the club season and came out for the track team after the season began.

To protect the back injury, Salemme still wears a wrap around her lower abdomen.

“Doing gymnastics has made it a lot easier for me to pole vault,” Salemme said. “It’s a lot of the same techniques and body shapes that we use.”

Salemme began vaulting with Stelting last summer at North. She cleared 8-6 in her first meet this year, then made 9-0 in most of the others.

Last week, Salemme made a huge breakthrough in the sectional when she set a personal record by 16 inches.

“I was just really pumped, and I wanted to PR and make it to regional,” Salemme said. “I had a lot of energy. I hadn’t PRed in a while, and I really wanted to get over 9-6 and I just kept clearing bars. I really wasn’t expecting to go as high as I have.”

Heathcote had started vaulting with Stelting the summer before her eighth-grade year. She talked Salemme into coming with her last year.

Like Salemme, Heathcote set a big PR in the sectional. She went from 8-6 to 9-6.

“It was just a really big meet, and there were a lot of other great pole vaulters, so I was pushed to vault higher,” Heathcote said. “It was very surprising that I could go that high. I would like to go 10-0 if I can (in today’s regional), but really just vault the best that I can in the conditions.”

Salemme wants to clear at least 10-8 today and earn a berth in the state finals.

To do that, she likely will have to finish in the top three in the regional. Salemme is tied for the third seed, based on her sectional performance.

“Adrienne had gone 9-0 pretty consistent, but we’d always kind of forget how to vault when it went over 9-0,” Stelting said. “She finally got to put it together, and we developed a little consistency in the last two weeks in practice, and I think you’re going to see a very good chance that she’ll be able to do what she did in the regional, if not maybe a little better.”

The rise of Salemme and Heathcote have somewhat mirrored that of Katrina May. May, who just finished her freshman year vaulting for Purdue, went from 8-6 her freshman year of high school to 10-0 in the sectional that year. May ended up vaulting 12-6 as a senior and finished third in last year’s state meet.

A couple of other North freshman have shown promise this season. Sydney Wheeler and Ashley Niebrugge give the Bull Dogs plenty of pole vault prospects for the future.

“I have one of the best group of freshman girls I’ve ever had, and I’m on Cloud 9,” Stelting said. “The next three years could be real exciting.”

If you go

Franklin girls track and field regional

When: 6 p.m. today

Admission: $7

Columbus East, Columbus North, Hauser entries and their seeds

Pole vault: 3. (tie) Adrienne Salemme (CN); 7. (tie) Sami Heathcote (CN).

High jump: 8 (tie) Elena Stoughton (CE).

Long jump: 15. Ashley Allen (CE).

Shot put: 5. Beyoncey Coleman-Turner (CE).

Discus: 11. Coleman-Turner (CE); 12. Seena Greiwe (CE).

4×800 relay: 11. Columbus North; 16. Columbus East.

100 hurdles: 15. Maura VanDeventer (CN).

100: none.

1,600: 3. Arig Tong (CN); 12. Kennedy Kerber (CN).

4×100 relay: 10. Columbus North.

400: 5. Cortney VanLiew (CE).

300 hurdles: 7. Grace Hasler (H).

800: 10. Tong (CN); 12. Kirsten Ballard (CN).

200: 13. Kennedy Cook (CN).

3,200: 3. Olivia Morlok (CN); 10. Ana Singhal (CN).

4×400 relay: 11. Columbus East; 12. Columbus North.

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.