Throughout her high school career, Sydney Clute was among the IHSAA’s top pole vaulters.
Fortunately for the Indiana University women’s track and field team, the college stage hasn’t been too big a leap for the former Center Grove standout.
Only a sophomore, Clute is already among the best in the Big Ten.
An NCAA regional qualifier last season as a true freshman, she is reaching new heights this spring and is on pace to accomplish her No. 1 objective: qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Clute already has qualified for the regional by virtue of having cleared a predetermined standard. She will reach the June 11-14 nationals in Eugene, Ore., if she’s among the top performers at next month’s regional.
She is confident she will be.
“Yes, definitely. I’ve had some really good practices in the last couple of weeks, and we’ve been working on some things that have been clicking, finally,” said Clute, a two-year letter winner for the Hoosiers. “Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to the next couple of meets, and hopefully hit some high bars.”
If recent performances are an indication, personal benchmarks won’t be out of reach for Clute, who has parlayed a successful indoor season into what is shaping into an even better outdoor season.
During the indoor season, Clute finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships with a career-best mark of 4.10 meters (13 feet, 5.25 inches). The height also was the fifth-best in IU history for the indoor pole vault.
To date in the outdoor season, she had third-place finishes at the recent Crimson Tide Invitational (3.97 meters) and at the Border Battle (3.92 meters).
Clute expects to break her personal-best before the season ends, possibly as early as this week at the Penn Relays. One of the world’s most heralded track meets with more than 22,000 athletes and daily crowds of 25,000-plus, the event begins today and concludes Saturday.
Yet as noteworthy as the Penn Relays are, it is but one of a number of pressure-packed meets on the horizon. The Big Ten Outdoor Championships are May 16-18 at Purdue, followed by a few weeks later by the May 29-31 NCAA East Preliminary round in Jacksonville, Fla. The top vaulters from that round qualify for the NCAAs.
Clute is doing all she can in practice, with an emphasis on refining technique, to position herr meets here toward the end of our season, getting ready for the Big Tenself for a shot at the NCAAs.
“We’re getting into the bigge meet and regionals, so now it’s a lot of working on technique,” she said. “That’s mostly what I need to work on at this point in order to get better and improve.”
A versatile athlete who also competed in varsity golf (she was a two-time All-State selection) and gymnastics at Center Grove, Clute also is a dedicated athlete — and honors student — who has a year-round commitment to track and academics.
Instead of taking a break at the end of the outdoor season, she will remain in Bloomington with a two-pronged objective of speeding up graduation and improving in the pole vault. She’s enrolled for a course load of classes and, between the classroom and school work, will fit in time to train at IU’s state-of-the-art facilities.
A marketing major, she plans to graduate a year early, begin a master’s program and continue pursuing personal-bests in the pole vault.
“It’s definitely a big-time commitment, on both sides,” Clute said of balancing athletics and academics. “Track, we’re at practice for an hour in the morning for (weight) lifting and sometimes (practice) three hours in the afternoon.
“You go to classes pretty much in between all that, so it’s definitely a lot of balancing time, figuring out when you can do what.
“Some people look at it as a lot of work and time, but it’s well-worth it, and fun.”