Washburn pole vaulter soars to No. 1 in NCAA Division II

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 10:51 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Washburn pole vaulter Virgi Scardanzan is known for raising the bar.

“It’s one of those things where we knew she was ready for a big PR,” Rick Attig, pole vault coach for the Ichabods, said. “Her good technique got her to a point where she started jumping high and also started developing confidence.”

At the end of Saturday’s Loper Twilight Qualifier in Kearney, Nebraska, she stared down the Washburn record: a jump no DII women’s pole vaulter has cleared this season (4.35m, 14-03.25).

“I looked at the bar, and it was very high. Let’s say that,” Scardanzan said.

When she landed —

“I saw the bar,” she smiled. “It was still there. It gives me goosebumps still now. It was just incredible.”

Scardanzan is used to clearing obstacles. She comes from a long line of gymnasts.

“My mom’s side, they were all gymnasts,” she said. “Starting from my grandpa, my grandma, my aunt, and my mom as well.”

But a slate of injuries knocked her off course.

“I broke my ankles three times, and I never really recovered it,” she said. “Gymnastics was really hard on my legs and my ankles, so I decided to give it a try to pole vault.”

Her newfound love at age 13 brought her to the states six years later, more than 5,000 miles from her small hometown near Venice, Italy.

“It was hard to leave my family, my friends and everything back,” she said. “They trusted me. I trusted the process. And for three years, I couldn’t see any results coming.”

Finally, those results came.

One week away from Nationals, she’s the best in all of DII — and has her sights set on the world stage.

“I think for every athlete that does a sport, the Olympic Games are the goal. So that is of course for me as well,” she said. “Never even thought that it could come maybe this year, maybe three years in Paris.”

First, Scardanzan has another bar to clear next Thursday in Allendale, Michigan at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

“I never thought that I was going to have my American dream actually coming together,” she said. I had it in my mind, but it was never really concrete and felt like it was mine until I flew to America. Now, feeling like I’m number-one in the nation feels surreal.”

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