By Travis Cram
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Shade Weygandt is rarely pleased with her performance.
In fact, she doesn't even think she's at the top of her game right now, even after jumping better than almost any other pole vaulter around the country this past summer and after breaking the school record in her first two Texas Tech meets.
"I know a lot of people were looking to me to see how I would do and respond but, for me, I wanted to be able to jump for me and not to just meet other people's expectations,” Weygandt said. “That's definitely a major lesson I learned in high school. You're never going to be able to please everyone. Someone's always going to have something to say."
Weygandt broke the school record for the second time in as many meets and automatically qualified herself for the NCAA Indoor Championships, clearing 13 feet 11 inches.
"We work together nearly every day,” Associate Head Coach Rock Light said.
Light recruited Weygandt from Mansfield High School this past year and had been watching her since she was freshman in high school.
"Technically, we work on things twice a week during the offseason,” Light said. “Now it's once a week, then a meet and then maybe a day with some pole running mechanics. Other than that, she just trains. But I'm with her every day and I get to spend a lot of time with her, and it's going well."
Light was itching to recruit Weygandt for quite a while after he arrived at Tech in 2006. Who could blame him. Weygandt was quickly becoming one of the most talented pole vaulters in the country, and at such a young age. Last summer, after graduating early and preparing for world competition, Weygandt had one of her most successful seasons in her young career.
Already a three-time state champion in the pole vault, Weygandt pushed herself to new heights in 2008. She set more records and the highest jump in the nation for high school athletes with a vault of 13 feet, 7 inches.
She then took her place as the nation's top recruit after successfully completing a jump of 14 feet this past year. She also won the Nike Junior Championships and competed at the Pan-Am Junior and U.S. Junior National Games. She placed second at both meets with jumps over 13 feet, 11 inches.
"She jumped really high," Light said. "Higher than anybody in the U.S. and at her age last year, higher than anybody else in the world at the time."
Weygandt likes the transition from high school to Texas Tech and appreciates all the support she's received in Lubbock — a place she enjoys a lot because of the people and the culture.
She's not too hard to notice around campus either. Weygandt loves to ride a longboard, a long-style skateboard, to class. She can often be seen with her track and field teammates, especially fellow vaulter Amanda Alley.
"Amanda Alley has been there for me in every aspect of life,” Weygandt said. “We're best friends, which is really good because she pushes me in the weight room. She can lift more than me. She pushes me on the track and just makes sure we are all out there on the track getting things done."
Light is making sure Weygandt heads in the right direction this first season.
“We’re just trying to continue to work on some things and I was happy that she did get through this first meet with a good solid mark to start the year,” Light said.
While Weygandt admits things are still in the beginning stages, she has short-term and long-term goals she would like to see met before she even leaves the Hub City.
She's already seen the best junior competition and got a chance to compete last year against defending Big 12 champion Natalie Willer from Nebraska. Weygandt knows she could be heading to even bigger heights if things continue to improve with her.
"I don't know. It's hard for me to make real long-term goals," Weygandt said. "I want to be able to attend and jump in the Olympic trials for 2012 – just to get the experience – but that's pretty far away.
"It'll be interesting. I'll just have to see where it goes,” Weygandt continued. “I know I have more ability than what I'm jumping and I know I have more potential than what I'm showing. Hopefully it just continues to progress and me and coach Light can take that journey and see where it takes us. Hopefully, it ends at the Olympic trials."