By Andrea Prusik, ArmoryTrack.com
For three local-area girls, competing at last Saturday's 107th NYRR Millrose Games in the junior pole vault was an up-close look at big-time track and field.
Kari Stromhaug, from Vestal High in the Binghamton, N.Y. area, Kara Snyder from Colonie in Albany's Capitol District, and Katlyn Rymarzow, from Pope John XXIII in New Jersey, got an inside view of the famed meet in the sold out New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory.
“Competing with the best pole vaulters in the country was incredible,” said Stromhaug, who won two invitationals at The Armory earlier this season. “Watching them really inspired and motivated me to work hard the rest of the year.”
"They" included Texan Desiree Frieier, who cleared an Armory high school record 14 feet to earn the win. She became the fourth girl in U.S. history to top 14 feet indoors.
It was the first time that the junior girls pole vault -- the "junior" stands for 19-and-under -- had been held at the prestigious annual meet. The field of 10 included athletes who qualified at the Reno Pole Vault Summit in January.
Rymarzow, for one, wasn't sure she would be able to compete. Millrose fell on the same day as her New Jersey Groups Championship, which jeopardized her invitation.
“I found out that I had been invited to Millrose about two months ago," Rymarzow said. "I didn't think I would be able to go, but my high school meet was canceled the day before (Friday) due to snow. I was very excited.”
For Stromhaug, Millrose conflicted with her Section IV State Qualifier, and competition at that event is necessary to compete in the NYSPHSAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 1. Stromhaug said state officials initially told her she must choose to compete at one meet or the other. However, her coach was eventually able to obtain a waiver allowing her to use her Millrose result as her qualifier. She jumped 11-7.75.
In the weeks leading up to the big meet, each of the girls engaged in special preparations. For Snyder, who will join the Villanova track team next fall, this included getting ready for a higher than usual opening height and a reminder to treat the meet just like any other in order to conquer her nerves.
“I wanted to hold my own against the field and prove to myself I deserved to be there," she said. "There's always some pressure because I train to do my best in every meet I compete in. I think most of the pressure came from myself wanting nothing but success."
Rymarzow’s preparations mainly included practicing regularly at the Hudson Valley Flying Circus in Warwick, N.Y, the same place where Snyder practices.
Considering the competition, crowd, and chance to bump elbows with elite athletes, all three girls felt honored to be competing at Millrose.
“Millrose is such a well known meet that those who knew I would be competing were impressed and thrilled for me,” Snyder said. “Even a couple of my non-track friends had heard of the meet, which normally isn't the case.”
Stromhaug, a native of Norway, received congratulations from teammates in her home country when they found out she would be competing.
“To be honest, I didn't know how big of a meet Millrose Games was before I was invited and started to look into it. Even Tyrving, my Track club in Norway, was excited that I was going,” Stromhaug said.
Perhaps more than most events, pole vaulters feel a common bond. Although competitive, they are friendly and supportive of one another. On Saturday, all of the girls chatted amiably while checking in and remained friendly throughout. They all have something in common: a love for the pole vault.
“I think I can safely say that all pole vaulters have somewhat of a friendly rivalry. We all hope for the best for each other and are happy when a friend does well, but we're all also very competitive,” Stromhaug said.
Snyder cleared 11-7.75, like Stromhaug, and Rymarzow made it over 11-1.75.
All three could potentially return to The Armory again next Monday for Eastern States. And beyond that, the bar could go even higher at New Balance Nationals Indoor, March 14-16.