Soaring and scoring

Two-time MIAC Indoor Pole Vault Champ Mark Volker looks to soar high during outdoor season this spring.


Cole Mayer

Senior Mark Volker on the Pole Vault during outdoor season last spring.

Gino Terrell, Sports Editor

Back-to-back 2014 and 2015 MIAC Indoor Pole Vault Champion, senior Mark Volker, looks to jump to the outdoor field season as he has his sights on getting his first outdoor championship title.

“Anyone can go on the track and run, they may not run fast but they can run. Not everyone could pick up a Pole Vault and Pole Vault,” Shane Swanberg, assistant men’s and women’s track and field jumps and sprints coach, said. “There’s a lot of things that have to align to be a good Pole Vaulter.”

For Volker, he has been learning since his first-year in high school at Cambridge-Isanti High School after he transitioned from wrestling to track and field. Volker explained his high school wrestling coach, a sport he started since first grade, was also the Pole Vault coach and recommended he try Pole Vaulting.

“Who wants to fly up like 8 feet in the air and fall,” Volker said. “Really, just the uniqueness and craziness that surrounded it [is what I liked].”

After being named all-state his senior year of high school, he transitioned to college Pole Vaulting at Hamline. At first, the transition was difficult for Volker.

Volker said he had to unlearn some bad habits he picked up from high school but once he did the pressure was off his shoulders.

“Having fun instead of trying to win is what I think separates me,” Volker said. “Yes, I like winning and I’m a very competitive guy, but when I go out there and do it just because I love Pole Vaulting — that’s when I have my best meets.”

By the end of his first-year campaign Volker made all-conference. Swanberg said Volker’s work ethic and his coachable mentality is what has helped him continue to improve.

“He’s gotten stronger [and] he’s got a lot more confidence,” Swanberg said.

Last year, in the midst of the season where he maintained a 4.0 GPA and won every Pole Vault competition, Volker was named to the MIAC’s Elite 22 team.

“He wants to be the best at his event,” Swanberg said. “He’s going to do all the little small things whether it’s taking extra jumps, or doing some extra core or getting a little extra on his lift. He’s going to do that to make sure he is at that top level, his teammates see that and hopefully they can learn from that too.”

Volker also won his first Indoor MIAC Pole Vault title in 2014.

This season, Volker set a personal record. He was one bar away from making a trip to the NCAA Division-III Indoor Track and Field meet with a 15-foot-5.75-inch Pole Vault distance, which was the 26th farthest distance in the nation. Volker was rewarded with a MIAC Indoor Men’s Field Athlete of the Week after that performance at Macalester on Feb. 27.

“Mark’s been a great kid to be able to coach,” Swanberg said. “It’s not often that you get an athlete like him to come around. I’ve only coached two other guys that have gone 15 plus [feet] and there’s only been two guys in Hamline’s history that have gone over 16 feet and I think Mark has the ability to do that.”

On March 7, 2015, Volker repeated as the MIAC Indoor Pole Vault champ.

“They were kind of bittersweet moments [winning both Pole Vault titles] because I wanted to get higher and make the national mark, but at the same time I won. Nobody can take that away from me,” Volker said.

As the outdoor season for Piper track and field will begin this weekend with the Viking Olympic meet on Friday, March 27, and Saturday, March 28, Volker is looking to progress.

“Last season, I went, technically, undefeated throughout the entire season, but this season specifically, I saw myself make more progress in terms of technique and skill,” Volker said.

Swanberg said he would give Volker an “A-” for the indoor season as the only thing missing was a trip to nationals, which is where he wants to see Volker end up for outdoor season.

Volker said he is proud of his career and how he has been able to soar after what he wanted as a first-year, to reach a similar level of success as one of his teammates. After seeing his teammate jump for nearly 16 feet on the Pole Vault, he saw the excitement from both the coach and athlete.

“I want to go high and have that level of excitement before I graduate here from Hamline,” Volker said. “I haven’t quite hit that 15[-foot]-9[-inch] mark that he hit but I have been pretty close. It’s a thrill, just seeing how well he did and just wanting that level of success.”

As his career winds down, he said his work ethic is what he thinks his teammates will remember most about him.

“I hope people remember that I’m a fun person and fun-loving,” Volker said, “but what I think they will remember is the amount of work I put in and how I always show up and give it my all. Basically, work my ass off and my dedication for the team.”