While many young people have basketball hoops in their back yards and look up to such athletes as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Sam Retzloff opted for a pole vaulting pit and bar, and finds his inspiration from such household names as Sergey Bubka.
Retzloff recently signed a letter of intent to Indiana University on a pole vault scholarship where he said he feels certain he will fit right in.
“They are known for being a great pole vault school and the coaches are fantastic,” Retzloff said.
“They know so much about pole vault. When I visited the school, I saw what a breathtaking campus it was and the atmosphere made me feel right at home.”
Retzloff won a 3A state championship in the sport for the Argyle track and field team in 2009 with a jump of 16′, which also set an Argyle High School record, and AHS assistant track coach Tommy Ledford said he recognized Retzloff’s talent as a vaulter much earlier than that.
“As a seventh grader, he was the only vaulter to actually get upside down,” Ledford said. “He won the district meet easily, and then went on to jump 13’3” as an eighth grader while breaking the national Junior Olympic record.”
Retzloff said that it was about that time that his love affair with the sport began.
“Up until seventh grade, no sport captivated me,” Retzloff said. “One day in track practice, my teammates and I were high jumping with coach Roller. We kept knocking the bar off so we asked him why.
“He told us our butts were too big and we needed to take a break, so I went over to the pole vault and tried it. It became the love of my life. I have not stopped since.”
It was just after his seventh grade year that he met his personal pole vault coach, Hal Theodore, as well.
“He had a tremendous amount of athleticism packaged in a small frame,” Theodore said. “His basic mechanics for the vault were good, and he was very coachable.
“I think his eighth grade season and the following summer going into high school opened my eyes to his talent and his future potential…however, talent is worthless without a good work ethic. Sam worked hard to better his technique and increase his athletic ability.”
Theodore said he believes that Retzloff and Indiana University are a very good fit.
“Sam has done plenty of research, visited the university, visited with the coach and the pole vaulters from there,” Theodore said. “The technical model, and theory of training for the vault is right in line with the technical model and theory that Sam already follows.
“In other words, he will be on the same page as the coach and the other Indiana vaulters when he arrives there. This will also help in the transition from being a high school competitor to a college competitor.”
Retzloff, who qualified in 2009 for the World Youth Championships in Italy, credits all of his coaches throughout his middle school and high school years for helping to mold him into the athlete he has become, as well.
“There are a lot of memories that have stuck with me over my high school years,” Retzloff said.
“Coach Chancelor giving us morale boosting pep talks; coach Ledford becoming one of the most important figures in my high school career. He is the one who put the first pole in my hands and believed I could do it.
“Hal Theodore, my private coach, who gave me a strong foundation in pole vault and has been there for me every time I have needed him…they each in different ways have helped me become the pole vaulter I am today.”
Ledford said that Retzloff’s earning a pole vault scholarship is not only great for him, but a big boost for the Argyle program as well.
“I am extremely happy for Sam,” Ledford said. “It is a huge success for our track program to have someone work as hard as Sam has for it to pay off. Steve Chancelor, our head track coach allows me to work strictly with pole vaulters. Thus, I can work with middle school pole vaulters as well.
“This gives me an advantage to get kids interested at a young age. The fact that Sam is going to Indiana on a scholarship to pole vault makes it easier to get the younger kids interested.”
Retzloff said his time at Argyle High School has taught him a number of things about his sport.
“It has made me realize how important my team is, and pole vault is not just an individual sport,” Retzloff said. “I am helping the team as a whole when I win. Competing in high school helps prepare me to compete at the next level. For me, high school pole vault is where the dream began.”