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After season off with broken arm, Huskers’ Jacobs eager to attain lofty goals in pole vault

January 18, 2019

Not many athletic careers go without a minor speed bump.

Andy Jacobs knows that better than most.

The Husker pole vaulter was fresh off an impressive freshman campaign that included second-place finishes at the Big Ten indoor and outdoor meets.

She was looking to take the next step in her Husker career and bring home a conference title as well as achieve some other “lofty goals,” as NU pole vault coach T.J. Pierce said.

Those goals were put on hold one Saturday in January 2018 thanks to, strangely enough, the men’s gymnastics high bar, where they sometimes train.

Jacobs and her teammates were doing a drill and the grip that she had around the two middle fingers of her left hand slipped off and locked her hand to the bar as she rotated her feet up into the air.

“I kind of knew it was happening a little so I tried to slow my momentum down,” Jacobs said. “Then everybody was like, ‘Andy, get down’ and I couldn’t. That’s when everybody knew I did something.”

Jacobs got her left arm looked at by the gymnastics trainers, who sent her to Memorial Stadium, where the Nebraska football early enrollees were getting their physicals done.

“They did an X-ray and called me over to look at it,” Jacobs said.

“I just go, ‘Is it bad?’ and T.J. and the doctor both nod. That was the first time I cried.”

She broke two bones in her left arm and had to use her redshirt season to not lose a year of eligibility.

Over 400 miles away, Jacobs’ mom, Christina, was coaching a gymnastics meet.

Andy tried to call her, to no avail, and began calling everyone at the meet with Christina.

“I have all these people coming up to me saying I need to call Andy right now,” Christina said.

“That was a little frightening.”

Christina said the broken arm brought a lot of pain, physically and mentally, and trying times.

However, Andy got some positive experiences from a mostly negative situation.

“We decided to just train as a sprinter and do everything in the weight room we could with the one arm,” Pierce said. “The problem is she’s left-hand dominant, so she couldn’t vault. There is so much pressure on that dominant hand in pole vaulting. It’s like holding onto the end of a car and then they hit the gas. There’s a lot of force.”

Pierce said he has had an athlete with 24 stitches on their nondominant hand pole vault. That wasn’t an option for Andy.

“Having coached and parented for a while, I tried to tell her, like I have others, that sometimes breaks are a good thing, but she just didn’t feel that way,” Christina said.

So the Big Ten runner-up pole vaulter spent all of her sophomore season with a thin PVC pipe working on her takeoffs on the side of the pit while her teammates practiced.

Pierce came up with a lot of drills to keep her working on what she could do, as well.

There was also a lot of running workouts to keep her busy.

“She looks completely different. Then she came home last summer, people didn’t recognize her,” Christina said. “She always looked like a gymnast, but now she has that taller and thinner body structure of a pole vaulter.”

A lot of things have changed over the past year for Jacobs.

But her goals have stayed the same.

“We set some pretty lofty ones last year, but I think she’ll blow them away now,” Pierce said.

Jacobs and the Husker indoor track and field teams will head to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the Simmons-Harvey Big Ten Invitational on Saturday.

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