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Raising the bar

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior pole vaulter Connie Jerz is commonly considered one of the nation's best contenders, and showed why at the Stanford Invitational last Saturday. Jerz won the contest with a vault of 13 feet, 5 3/4 inches (4.11m), which far surpasses the mark required to advance into the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 1, 2004
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Senior Connie Jerz continues to stay head and shoulders above the rest

As a pole vaulter for Arizona track and field, senior Connie Jerz is constantly striving to reach new heights. But despite her collegiate successes, Jerz remains grounded about her accomplishments even as she brings an added dimension of competitiveness and athleticism to the team.

At the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Jerz bettered her outdoor personal best from 13 feet, 3 inches to 14 feet, 1 inch, earning her second place.

"At outdoor nationals last year, I jumped the highest I've ever jumped where it counted, and I was second," Jerz said. "That would probably be my proudest moment."

In this same season, Jerz placed second and fourth in the Drake Relays and the Pacific 10 Conference Championships, respectively. She was also awarded the Arizona women's track and field Most Outstanding and Top Newcomer awards.

But the accolades did not end there. She was named to an All-American team when she competed for the track and field team of Long Beach State.

"I do think (being named All-American) is a pretty big honor. That was probably my first goal to hit All-American status and then work my way through the ranks to get to the top three," Jerz said. "I was really happy when that happened."

And she has not looked back since. Jerz was able to build off her momentum of last season when she tied for third place at last month's NCAA Indoor Championships with a season-best vault of 13 feet, 7 inches.

As the outdoor season progresses, Jerz, who currently uses a 14-foot pole, hopes to learn to vault with a longer pole.

"I want to improve my technique to jump on a 14 foot, 7 inch pole. I want to see how that would go," she said.

UA head coach Fred Harvey believes it is Jerz's sense of perspective that sets her above the rest.

"She's such a neat young lady. She's as competitive of a person you'll ever meet and has a keen way of understanding where she's at any point in time," Harvey said. "During training or competition, at a great meet (or a) bad meet, she always has a smile on her face. At a bad meet, she figures out what she did wrong and moves on from there. That's the mark of a special individual."

In the midst of her success, Jerz has taken on an indirect leadership role for Arizona's younger vaulters.

"I try and lead more by action rather than by telling them what they should do. I try and set an example and be someone they want to follow," Jerz said.

Jerz began pole vaulting when she was a student at Tucson High School, where she received 14 varsity letters - four from track and field alone.

"(Pole vaulting) was a high school event that not a lot of people were doing. It looked fun, so I gave it a shot," Jerz explained. "And I come from a pretty athletic family - both of my parents played one sport in college and both my brothers played three or four sports in high school."

However, Jerz said her athletic career will soon take a backseat to her academic one.

"At first, I want to take care of school and make sure I am on the right path with my career," Jerz, a physiological sciences major, said. "I want to go to medical school."

"Athletically, she's extremely strong and fast, but psychologically she's just extremely tough and that's the thing that separates her from anyone else," said UA assistant coach Eric Boxley. "Connie leads by example and sets a great example for others to follow. The one thing about Connie that is most impressive is that she has a good balance between academics, athletics and a social life."

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