March 31, 2006
by Brandi Wilkerson
Before running as fast as he can and then inserting a vertical pole, that is about three times his size in the ground in order to propel himself over a horizontal pole that is about 16′ off the ground, Florida State pole vaulter Matt Hurley stands at the end of a relatively short runway and hopes the wind is behind him.
“The wind has to be blowing from behind me,” says the junior from Tallahassee. “If the wind is blowing in my face it’s hard to run against the wind while carrying a pole in my hand. At this point the pole is like a sail and will shift depending on the wind.
“If the wind isn’t perfect we (pole vaulters) go crazy.”
The wind must be favoring Hurley. Throughout his career, he has maintained his sanity and become a top competitor on the conference level in his event. During the FSU Relays, Hurley tied his collegiate best of 16’6.75″(5.05m) and qualified for regionals for the third year in a row, but he has bigger dreams.
“I cleared regionals; now all I have to do is keep jumping higher and clear 17′ in order to go to nationals,” said Hurley.
For the masses, being thrown into the air at a height of 17′ off the ground would be a nightmare but Hurley is used to it as pole vaulting is not the first time he has jumped to entertain others.
“I’ve jumped off my roof to shoot a video,” said Hurley. “I would jump and then play it backwards to make it look like I jumped on the roof.”
When he’s not shooting extreme videos where he’s jumping from rooftops, Tallahassee residents may see him in unlikely places revealing his crazy nature.
Many may perceive Hurley’s behavior to be a little crazy but he doesn’t mind. In his opinion, that is the key quality a pole vaulter must posses.
“Pole vaulting is what crazy people do to have fun.”
Though Hurley admits that pole vaulting is fun, it is not a common sport for most people to try, therefore he finds motivation from within in order to continue competing.
“You have to be self-motivated,” said Hurley. “I’m always trying to push myself to be better at little thing like running faster and jumping higher.”
In addition to pushing himself to do better, he also finds inspiration in other members of FSU men’s track and field team.
“Really a motivation is all the guys on the team,” said Hurley. “We have amazing athletes like Rafeeq (Curry), Garrett (Johnson) and Walter (Dix); people who are national champions and have amazing talent. You’re inspired by being around people like that.”
With his internal drive and the success of his teammates, Hurley is striving to reach his career goal of 18′.
“This year I would like to clear 17’6″,” said Hurley. “Coach (Dennis) Nobles always tells me I can clear 18′. That would definitely be a mark that I would like to jump before my career is over. If I could jump that I’d be satisfied and be able to move on in my life.”
Conditioning himself to jump more than a foot higher than his personal best is no easy feat but Hurley maintains his sanity by not becoming frustrated when his height doesn’t increase.
“I try to keep in perspective what my goals are, but sometimes you get stuck in a rut where you are and forget to do something or are stuck doing the same thing over again,” said Hurley. “I just try to not get frustrated and stay motivated and think of the big picture.”
When Hurley is trying to keep a cool head he busies himself by watching football.
“I like a wide variety of sports,” said Hurley. “I definitely like football because I used to play. I enjoy the hitting aspect and the amazing things the guys do.
Although football is exciting and dangerous, the adventurous spirit that Hurley possesses makes him crave extreme sports.
“Right before I started pole vaulting I was into skateboarding and things like that,” said Hurley. “I like to watch snowboarding and skateboarding and cool things like that.”
If there are any crazy, thrill-seeking individuals who tend to be misunderstood by their peers, Hurley would like to offer some advice.
“Be yourself,” said Hurley. “And then you’ll end up in a cool sport like pole vaulting.”