As a freshman at Boardman High School, Carrie Mavrikis couldn’t fathom being a pole vaulter.
Now that she’s a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, she couldn’t imagine not being one.
Her older sister Gina was a distance runner at Youngstown State University, while Carrie was at Boardman.
“I had originally began my freshman year competing in middle distance,” Carrie Mavrikis said. “I was doing the 800 and I did the mile. One day my head coach Denise Gorski came to me and asked me if I would be interested in doing the pole vault.
“At the time, I was a little skeptical. I loved doing middle distance. She talked to me and said ‘I want you to try it.’ I tried it and it turned out to be a good decision to go in a different direction.”
She did it a couple of times near the end of her freshman season and went full-time her sophomore year with the Spartans.
Most of the schools in the Federal League have the pole vault. It put Boardman in a quandary. The Spartans needed a coach. Carrie’s father, George, was tabbed as a pole vault coach.
“Nobody likes to leave those points on the table,” he said. “If we’re going to pole vault, we’re going to have a full-time coach that is certified. That was an edict from the administration. We didn’t have anybody at the time.”
He became certified through the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
“Learn it, but learn the safety aspect,” said George, who is in his fourth year coaching boys and girls pole vault for the Spartans. “I always tell them, ‘Go high, but be safe.’ There are a lot of things you learn coaching, but it’s a progressive thing. You don’t learn it overnight.”
Safety is a must when you’re first starting the pole vault.
“I think it is and I think a lot of the safety comes down to the coaching,” Carrie said. “ I think if you’re taught properly from the beginning, then, safety isn’t an issue. And, a lot of little crazy things that could happen in the beginning won’t.
“If you’re taught well and taught correctly, the risk of being injured is not very high. I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises, but that goes along with a lot of other track events too.”
Having a good coach goes into being a good pole vaulter, Carrie said. She was lucky to have her father as a coach in high school. Now, she has Bob Reynolds as her coach at Pittsburgh.
“You have to understand where they’re coming from and they understand where you’re coming from,” Carrie said. “It’s a meeting in the middle between the coach and athlete.”
Her career best jump is 10 feet, 6 inches and she was a two-time district champion at Boardman and was selected to the all-Mahoning County and all-Federal League teams four consecutive seasons. She also qualified twice for the indoor state track meet in Akron.
She has set the standard for other pole vaulters at Boardman.
“We’ve got a couple young girls,” Mavrikis said. “Sometimes they’ll come out and show some promise and then do something else. They’re young and it’s hard to say where they’ll get to. If the ability is there, you can work with that.”
Carrie couldn’t imagine where she’d be without the pole vault. In addition to being an athlete, she is majoring in rehabilitation science.
“I wouldn’t take anything back — all the hours I put in the weight room, taking the extra jump, going one more time when I didn’t think it was going to make a different,” Carrie said. “It took a lot of effort to be able to be a pole vaulter in an area where there’s not a lot of places you can go to practice.
“You have to go out of the area, make trips to Akron and Kent on weeknights. You have to put in the effort. It brought me a lot of success and I’m and grateful for that.”