Tedeschi translated gymnastics skills to pole vaulting


When looking at a bird’s-eye view, pole vaulting appears straightforward. The vaulter runs, plants the pole and tries to get over the bar. However, for senior vaulter Gemma Tedeschi, it is much more technical than most spectators realize. There are hidden elements and individual movements that can make a difference between reaching new heights or crashing down below.

Tedeschi gravitated toward pole vaulting during her junior year of high school from her first love, gymnastics. She joined the track team and was looking for an event, and her coach told her to give vaulting a try as it has a lot of similarities to gymnastics she could take advantage of.

“There are a lot of technical elements that are in both sports that a lot of people do not realize,” Tedeschi said. “First, the strength that I did in gymnastics was really helpful for pole vault because a lot of the motions on the pole are very similar to the things that you’d do on the (uneven) bar and other gymnastics-based drills, and so a lot of the drills in pole vault are the same that you do in gymnastics.”

Although the transition from gymnastics to vaulting was nearly seamless, the transition period into becoming an elite vaulter took a lot of work, and it was her coach who helped perfect her technique and instilled in her the drive to make it at the next level.

“Early on, my coach saw that I had potential and he took me under his wing,” Tedeschi said. “He actually had a vault pit in his backyard. I would practice all throughout the summer and even during the winter, where we would literally shovel off the ice and snow just to practice. Throughout all of that, I got better and my technique and height went up as I put more and more into it.”

After transferring from the University of Denver to Marquette, Tedeschi immediately made an impact on the vaulters. During her first outdoor season, she took third place at the BIG EAST Tournament and was looking for more. She found her stride last season when she scored the second-highest jump in indoor school history at 3.81 meters, or 12.5 feet. She set the all-time school record during the outdoor season when she hit 3.92, or 12.86 feet. Tedeschi said she only hopes to get better by continuing to tweak her technique and ultimately reach her goal of breaking 13 feet.

“I want to be the BIG EAST champ for the indoor season, but I also want the BIG EAST winning height to be over 13 feet,” Tedeschi said. “Last year they were not, and both the indoor and outdoor heights were in the 12s. And the year before that there were some really good vaulters at Villanova who were vaulting above 13, and so I want to raise the bar up to that standard again.”

As Tedeschi moves forward into the season, she continues to push herself and her teammates, and when her mind is racing with technical adjustments she needs to make on the fly, she reminds herself of a piece of advice she received from her coach:

“Sometimes you just need to let go all of the technical advice and just go jump.”