Pole Vaulter Kareem Press Reaches New Heights


Photo provided by Kareem Press

Kareem Press practices pole vaulting.

Hope Kahn

Sprinting down the runway with speed, determination and focus, junior Kareem Press plants the pole firmly onto the ground, takes flight, and soars through the air clearing the bar at 10 feet. This was the moment Press won pole vault at Howard County regionals.

Press’ clearance of 10 feet at regionals was the top height, and he emerged as the winner. Winning regionals qualified him for states where he cleared a personal record of 11 feet and claimed 8th place.

“Pole vaulting is just you, the pole, the runway and the air,” said Press who has been pole vaulting since his sophomore year of high school.

Press started because of the influence of his senior friends. “I heard bad things about it like you could break your neck, but I still wanted to try.”

When Press decided to attempt pole vaulting, it came very “natural to [him] and was getting up in the air,” he said.

Learning how to pole vault includes self teaching, lessons, and practices. “I had a coach who was the track coach at Reservoir, who was also the coach of Howard County pole vaulters, and she did teach me things, but most of the time I went online and watched videos,” he said.

“Pole vault practices are twice a week and consist of us jumping, doing some drills, short approaches of the pole, and all that kind of stuff with knowing the pole,” said Press.

“[For me] pole vaulting isn’t easy or hard, it’s in between,” said Press.

Pole vault all depends on how one is able to adapt, he says. “Nobody’s really good at pole vault yet nobody’s really bad, it depends on how you work with it because there’s so many factors and so many ways you can adjust to it,” he said.

Press wasn’t expecting to win Counties and at a typical Howard County meet Press often places 3rd or 4th, he said. “Coming into the meet I was scared because I no heighted [didn’t clear the bar] for the few past meets before and so just winning that meet brought up my confidence.”

Pole vault is extremely dangerous and even Press gets intimidated by the risks of the sport. “Most times, when I jump I always go off to the side of the mats which is really dangerous and it hurts a lot,” he said.

But, Press has been working on improving and getting the pole under more control. “This year I’ve been working with bigger poles and I’ve been able to get higher,” he said. “Unfortunately, I haven’t had as much control with the pole so I just have to work on controlling better but I’ve been getting higher this season.”

Before jumping, Press clears his mind and tells himself “just don’t die, ” he said. “It kind of helps me focus, having everything organized. I’m like ‘Kareem you got this; press that arm, look up, just shoot up to the stars, don’t think about anything else,’” he said.

Press loves the feeling of the flight while pole vaulting. “It’s the fact I can fly. It’s the only sport where you can actually fly,” Press said. “I really like bending the pole and getting upside down it just reminds me of flying and taking flight.”

Kareem’s goal is to improve throughout the next 3 track and field seasons he has at Wilde Lake in order to try to “break the record at this school of 12 feet and to place 5th or up to states,” said Press. In order to do this Press will, “keep going to practice, looking at others, and try [his] best to improve as much as [he] can with consistency.”