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Votapka pole vault worth NAIA All-American status

Lane Votapka took fifth place in the pole vault at the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association track and field nationals May 22-24 to give the Fallbrook High School graduate All-American status as a college junior at Point Loma Nazarene University.

“There’s a lot of things I’m very happy about. I’m disappointed because I could have easily won,” Votapka said. “I’m also very happy that I got All-American.”

The pole vault event gives competitors three attempts to clear each distance. In the event of a tie for the highest distance, the positions are determined on missed attempts at lower distances which were eventually cleared.

The top five finishers at the NAIA nationals all cleared 15’11” before being unsuccessful at the 16’5” distance, but the other four vaulters who cleared 15’11” all did so earlier than Votapka.

“It took me three attempts to clear 15’11”,” Votapka said.

Even that third attempt was uncertain. “I kind of tipped it on the way down, but the bar stayed up there,” Votapka said.

Since only five vaulters cleared 15’11” and the top six finishers receive NAIA All-American status, Votapka became an All-American for the first time in his athletic career.

“Lane was very, very good at the nationals. He was on target,” said Point Loma head track and field coach Jerry Arvin. “Had a great meet. Just wasn’t in the cards, I guess.”

The trip to the NAIA nationals was the second for Votapka, who qualified for the 2007 nationals but did not clear any of his attempts as a sophomore.

“He continues to grow as an athlete,” Arvin said. “I’m just glad he’s got another year.”

In the 2008 NAIA nationals, held at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Votapka opened by clearing 14’11”.

“It was a height that I had practiced for weeks. That was the first jump that I would take in practice, just to make sure that I could make that height,” Votapka said.

“It was a big relief,” Votapka said of clearing 14’11”. “I said a quick little prayer after I made the first attempt.”

The 17 vaulters who were successful at 14’11” attempted to clear the bar at 15’5”, and Votapka did so on his first attempt. Ten pole vaulters cleared 15’5” and sought to reach 15’11”.

After Votapka made his third attempt at 15’11”, he pulled out a bigger pole for his attempt at 16’5”.

“It really shot me up over it, but I either hit it on the way up or hit it on the way down,” Votapka said of knocking down the bar on all three attempts at 16’5”.

Votapka won the Golden State Athletic Conference championship with a vault of 15’3”; after clinching a win at that distance he eschewed the 15’9” attempt to seek a personal record 16’3” but was unsuccessful.

Votapka had cleared 16’0” at the Triton Invitational at UCSD.

“I really had a chance this year,” Votapka said of the NAIA national title. “I intend to win next year.”

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