Pole vaulter hitting stride in second season

Zach Siegmeier wants to become an All-American at the NCAA meet.

Megan Ryan

Junior Zach Siegmeier sort of fell into pole vaulting. He picked up the event his freshman year of high school to avoid offseason football conditioning and placed most of his focus on another spring sport, lacrosse.

Fast-forward seven years and Siegmeier is having a standout second season pole vaulting for the Gophers.

His eyes are set on a lofty goal — to finish in the top six and become an All-American at the NCAA outdoor championships in June.

Part of Siegmeier’s success may stem from senior teammate and decathlete Jack Szmanda, whom he met at a summer camp.

Siegmeier attended Cuesta College in California at the time, but Szmanda thought Siegmeier would strengthen the Gophers’ pole vaulting team.

“I knew we were graduating a couple of our really good pole vaulters … and we needed some more good jumpers,” Szmanda said. “I had actually seen him jump throughout that week at the camp, and I told him, ‘You should come to the U.’ And he got really excited, and it kind of all came together.”

Siegmeier visited Minnesota that winter and competed in an open meet before officially signing. The Illinois native said he had never thought about coming to Minnesota before Szmanda’s suggestion.

But Siegmeier’s first season with the Gophers was riddled with injuries that interrupted his progress. He had surgery last summer for a groin strain and hernia.

This year, Siegmeier has been able to continuously train.

“It’s been amazing to be able to be healthy the whole time and just to continue to build on everything I’ve been working on,” Siegmeier said.

Siegmeier set a new personal pole vault record of 5.31 meters two weeks ago at the John McDonnell Invitational.

Szmanda said Siegmeier’s success this outdoor season was only a matter of time.

“Everybody knew it was going to happen,” Szmanda said. “That’s kind of the way pole vault works. You just keep going at it and keep positive, and you’re going to end up going higher.”

Szmanda called his roommate determined, which is apt considering the two share a friendly rivalry.

“We’re definitely pushing each other,” Siegmeier said. “I don’t know if it’s as much for him as it is for me — because for me, I only have pole vault, so my only thing to beat him in is the pole vault.”

Even with the competition, Siegmeier knows he owes a lot to Szmanda.

“We’re like best friends,” Siegmeier said, “and it’s really nice to have someone like him, because pole vault really is his favorite [event].”