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Eric Peterson, Published May 09 2011

Track and field: Cobbers have five talented men's vaulters

MORRHEAD - Chris Baxter has been the pole vault coach at Concordia for 12 years, but he’s never had a men’s vaulting crew like this.

Four Cobbers have cleared at least 14 feet this spring, a program first. The team’s top five rank in the school’s top 20 all-time vaults.

“This is the best group I’ve had,” Baxter said. “This is the most depth I’ve had.”

Four of them have likely qualified for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference outdoor meet. The MIAC meet is slated for Friday and Saturday at Gustavus.

“I’m having a blast,” said Cobber sophomore Erik Olson, from Buffalo, Minn. “I love it. We definitely push each other. My two highest heights this year have come on days when we’ve had other vaulters go the same height.”

Olson, senior Andrew Overson and senior Brian Watkins are tied for the best vaults this outdoor season, all clearing 14 feet, 3¼ inches. Freshman Levi Bachmeier is right behind at 14-1¼. Sophomore Charlie Alvarez (13-8¼) is close to the 14-foot range.

“We all want to be the best one, but we always help each other out. It’s not the type of a competition where we are mad if someone does better,” said Overson, from Waconia, Minn. “It’s my last year so I kind of want to come out on top. But I’m glad when these guys do well, too.”

Both transfers, Olson and Bachmeier have helped the Cobbers build quality depth in the event.

Olson spent his freshman year at North Dakota State before he transferred. Olson didn’t compete for NDSU as a freshman, breaking his ankle of his first day of practice.

Bachmeier, from West Fargo, started this school year at the University of Minnesota where he was just as a student. His decision to change majors landed him at Concordia and opened the door for him to compete in track again.

Bachmeier, who vaulted for West Fargo High School last spring, knew he wasn’t ready to give up the sport.

“It’s kind of surreal because I remember thinking at the (North Dakota) state track and field meet out in Bismarck last year, ‘This is the last day that I will ever carry a pole in my hands.’ ” Bachmeier said. “I was just going to hang it up and move on with life.”

Bachmeier joined the Cobbers track team in January.

“It’s been so great and I’ve been able to form a really close family like I did in high school in four short months,” Bachmeier said.

Overson has shown great in improvement over his college career. When he came to Concordia, his best vault was 9-6. Overson’s biggest improvements came during his freshman season and this spring.

Concordia coach Garrick Larson thinks Baxter has played a key role in the success.

“He is a great coach,” Larson said. “He is just very good developmental vault guy. I know the kids appreciate him.”

Overson said feeding off talented teammates has helped him ascend to new heights in his final season.

“I think success breeds success,” Baxter said. “And we’ve had these kids here and they all help each other out. They all understand the vault.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com