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Junior Katie Darraugh finished runner-up at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Championships in the pole vault a year ago. In her most recent competition this season, Darraugh matched a personal-best, clearing 12’ 1” at the Virginia Duals in New York City.

Darraugh will look to improve her mark this weekend, when the Cavaliers head to Virginia Tech to compete in the 2009 ACC Indoor Championships. The meet will run Thursday-Saturday in Rector Field House.

Questions: What is your mindset heading into this weekend’s conference championship?
Darraugh: The ACC is really competitive this year. Going into the ACCs, I’ll be mainly focused on making my jumps on the first attempts and being consistent. Since all of the vaulters are very close in heights, every jump and miss counts. In competitions, it’s really hard to separate yourself from the other competitors and not compare yourself to them. Going into ACCs, the numbers are just numbers. I may not be ranked as number one, two, or even three, but I plan on going out there with the mentality that I have just as much of a shot at placing as any of them.

Question: When you’re competing, do you care about the height you vault as long as you beat the competition on that day, or do you compete more against yourself than the competition?
Darraugh: Track is an interesting sport in the sense that it’s very individualized. At every meet you’ll find different competitors. Sometimes you’ll be jumping against the top vaulters in the country; while other times you’ll jump against D3 schools. For me, it doesn’t matter if I win or come in 22nd as long as I made the marks that I set out to jump. In track winning doesn’t always mean you did well; it only means you did better than your competition. For me, I compete against myself and my abilities. I don’t even like to watch the other vaulters jump; I’d rather stay in my own world and not throw my mindset.

Question: Who’s your biggest competition?
Darraugh: It’s hard to pick one team. Virginia Tech traditionally has a very strong vault program, but they have had some injuries this year. They are still a team that I look out for, but it seems like other schools are making their mark as well like Duke and Clemson.

Question: Are you at all superstitious?
Darraugh: I try not to have superstitions because pole vault is already such a mental sport. But I like to wear the same sports bra when I compete. I was disappointed with my jumping earlier in the year and I switched sports bras and was pleasantly surprised. Needless to say, I plan on wearing it for the ACCs as well. But besides that, I try not to be too much of a head case because pole vaulting already does that to you.

Question: Do you use the same pole for every competition?
Darraugh: I almost never use the same pole when competing. When I’m warming up I normally use about three poles and during competition I often change again. When you get your adrenaline flowing during competition the opportunity to move up to stiffer poles is there. I’ve been using the same progression of poles for a year or two now.

Question: How have you adapted to the new coaching staff?
Darraugh: I have loved the changes in coaching staff so far. Coach Eskind has been great to me. He’s really helped me grow as a vaulter and understand the breakdown of the jump. I really trust in what he tells me to do whether it’s changing poles or doing three sets of med ball. At times I get a little too caught up in the phrase “go big or go home”, but then he snaps me back to reality. He may ask a lot from us, but it’s never anything he knows we can’t handle.

Question: The outdoor season is quickly approaching, what are some of your goals for this year?
Darraugh: I’d really like to move back to a longer approach. As it is now, I have a much shorter run than most of my competitors. This will help me get more speed going into the jump and help me to move up my progression of poles. I’d also like to continue to work on using longer sticks. Most non-pole vaulters always say, “well why don’t you get onto a 15-foot pole, then you can go like 16 feet?”. I wish it was that easy, but it’s much more complicated than that. Repetition and tedious technique work are always in the agenda.

Question: Do you prefer pole vaulting indoors or outdoors?
Darraugh: I try not to be picky, but I must say that I prefer indoors. When you start taking things outdoor you have to deal with the weather. Even the slightest wind can really throw off a vaulter. I’ve had to attempt to jump when the wind was so strong I couldn’t even hold it straight running down the runway. Another thing about the weather is the rain. Pole vaulting can get dangerous when your poles get wet and your hands slip. It’s definitely not the most fun to vault in the rain.

Question: When did you start vaulting?
Darraugh: I fooled around with pole vault the summer before my freshman year in high school. The prior track season was the first year they offered pole vault in Illinois at the high school level. My sister, who is four years older, did pole vault, so I wanted to do it too. I was in one of those phases where I wanted to do whatever my sisters were doing. It definitely has paid off though because now I can’t imagine my life without it.

Question: What made you decide to come to Virginia to jump?
Darraugh: What really sold me about Virginia were the academics and the absolutely gorgeous Grounds. I remember being on my tour standing on the lawn and thinking, “wow this is where I want to be”. It’s really been a blessing for me to be able to come to this great school and have the opportunity to jump for Virginia. I really couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Question: When you’re at a meet, but you’re not competing, which events are your favorites to watch?
Darraugh: Well, honestly, my favorite event to watch is the men’s pole vault. But since that’s my own event, I’ll pick another one too. I love watching the DMR relay. It’s probably my favorite running event to watch. The 4×400 relay is also always incredibly exciting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost my voice cheering for those two relays.

Question: What do you like to do when you’re away from the track? Where can you be found in your free time?
Darraugh: When I’m away from the track and not doing homework, I love to spend time with friends. I know it sounds clich, but it’s what I love to do. I’m definitely a people person and I’d rather be surrounded by friends then say, reading a book alone. I also love to watch sports whether it is on TV or live at a game. I must admit that I know more than your average girl about football. And yes, I yell at the TV during games. Embarrassing, but true.

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