Coach comment from Matt Oberly - Andrew Polson is a great young man. He works extremely hard and is very disciplined. As a cross country runner he was always focused on the team goals over any individual accomplishments and was a key contributor to the success that our team has had. As a track and field athlete Andrew is very dedicated to the sport. He puts in the extra time outside of practice to improve and get better. He spends time helping new athletes learn how to pole vault by teaching the event. Over the last three years, I have watched him battle injuries and other season ending issues. Every time he is faced with adversity he works through the situation and becomes a better athlete. Andrew Polson is an incredible young man that I have had the privilege to coach. He always puts the team first and is always willing to do whatever it takes for Spring Valley to be successful.
Full name: Andrew Polson
When did you first start competing in the sport, and do you recall any of your childhood events?
I first started competing in track and field when I was in the seventh grade. I had always loved running and had done a few races throughout elementary school, but I had never been on a real team. I remember the first time I ever stepped foot on the track at Spring Valley. I was wearing a Superman shirt, yet on the inside I was very nervous. I gave Coach (John) Jones my paperwork and told him I was going to be a sprinter even though I did not have the build to be one. Throughout that whole season my teammates were nothing but supportive of me. I was around 4' 8" when I joined the team in seventh grade, but my team made me feel like a giant, always uplifting me and making me feel like I belonged. That was when I knew I loved the sport and when I decided to continue competing for many years to come.
Was there a certain moment when you realized you'd be able to compete at such a high level?
For pole vaulting I did not really realize I would be able to compete at a high level until the first meet of the 2020 track season, when I set a personal best by a foot to win the Adidas Lowcountry Invitational. It was really my first win at an Invitational and I was super excited for the season, which unfortunately ended less than a week later due to the coronavirus.
What are some bumps in the road that you've encountered when it comes to training for different events during the season?
I have encountered several bumps in the road training for cross country in the fall and pole vault in the spring. It was always very hard for me to get back into running shape after pole vaulting during the track season and several times it led to me pushing my body too hard. During the preseason of my sophomore year I experienced rhabdomyolysis, rapid muscle breakdown making it hard for the kidneys to filter properly. Then during my junior season I experienced a stress fracture in my left tibia, which continued to cause problems during the track season. When Corona hit I thought it would be a good opportunity to get ahead of this problem of having to work extra hard to catch back up after the track season, but unfortunately I was faced with a stress reaction in my left tibia and my doctor feared it would become a stress fracture again. I was told I couldn't run from May all the way to August. I rode my bike all summer trying not to give up and worked with many specialists. In the end I am fortunate to have been able to run my senior cross country season, even though my performances were not what I had dreamed of when I first started competing in the sport. That being said switching back to pole vaulting is usually a little easier for me than it is going from pole vaulting to running. While it does have a small effect on my consistency in my run, I experience less stress on my legs. Some of the injuries and muscle imbalances from my cross country seasons have carried over and sparked other injuries like strained hamstrings and hip apophysitis, but overall I would say strength training areas of weakness has really helped me to train for both cross country and pole vault.
How did COVID impact your training as you prepared for the season?
COVID did not have as big of an impact on my training physically as it did mentally. As for many, sometimes it became demotivating to continue to train not knowing when the next meet would be, but my team continued to encourage one another and reminded each other of our goals, even if we weren't able to actually train together. I actually used COVID as a chance to train for the Cross Country season early, but unfortunately I got injured and was only allowed to ride my bike from May until basically the start of the season. COVID allowed me to focus on myself during this time and focus on doing what I needed to do to heal and be able to compete for the season. While it has brought about several uncertainties, if anything it has allowed me to really think about why I love the sport and focus on having fun with it, which is the most important part in my opinion.
If you had to pick: Track and field or cross country, and why?
Track and field. While I love the atmosphere and team memories created from cross country, I fell in love with track first and I love the variety that track has to offer. During the track season I pole vault, which I have really grown to love.
Where are you going to college? If you have already committed, what made you choose them?
I am going to attend Clemson University starting next fall. I have been excited about going to Clemson since I was in preschool. I knew I wanted to be an engineer some day, and I have never lost sight of that. I hope to major in biomedical engineering and do research in a lab. For me academics has always come first and although Clemson unfortunately cut their Men's Cross Country and Track and Field programs, I made the difficult decision that I wasn't going to change the school I dreamed of attending. I had hoped to one day try and walk on at Clemson if I met the standards in high school, but unfortunately I may never get the chance. I know I can still continue to do what I love outside of a team and as long as I enjoy doing it then that is all that matters.
Is there another track event you wish you were good at? What is appealing about it?
The 400m. I feel like the 400 is just a perfect distance, where pure sprint speed meets with strength. The 4x4 is also arguably the most entertaining event to watch at the end of a long track meet. I have also always wanted to try the decathlon because of all of the events I have tried over the years.
What are some hobbies and interests you have outside of running?
Outside of running, I enjoy trying other sports. I was on the club ultimate frisbee team at my school last year and I have started playing tennis during quarantine. Other than that I really just enjoy hanging out with my friends and making TikToks.
Who is your role model, and why?
One of my role models is definitely a former teammate of mine, Victor Correa. Victor always challenged me to give all that I could during practice, and still does to this day. He is physically tough, but his mental strength is even more commendable. He has always been supportive of me and my dreams not only as an athlete, but in life. Victor encouraged me from day one when I stepped foot on the track as a 7th grader and I can still remember my first encounter with him from that day. He, along with my other teammates, were very inviting and although it was only my first day, I knew it was where I belonged. His wisdom has helped me get through many barriers as an athlete and I look up to him each and every day.
Everyone has a bucket list, so give us some of the things on your list.
Become an engineer, watch an Olympic Games in person, and tour around the World.
What is the best advice you have received?
Some of the best advice I have received is "when you come to a wall you go through it, over it, around it, under it, but don't let it stop you." One of my former teammates and role models, Victor Correa, told me this during my 2020 cross country season after experiencing several obstacles leading up to and throughout the season.
What is your favorite pre-race snack, tradition, etc.?
Before races and before pole vaulting I am very superstitious and have to eat and do the same things throughout the day. Throughout my whole life I have been affected by acid reflux, which made finding what to eat before races very difficult. I often found that no matter what I did, whether I ate nothing or ate what many other runners said worked for them, I still ended up throwing up after runs. Even on recovery days I would struggle with what to eat, but finally after five years of running, with the help of a nutritionist, I found that teddy grahams worked very well for me before races. Before races I usually eat a bagel with cream cheese 3 hours before I run along with half of a protein bar. An hour before the race is when I would eat 24 teddy grahams, and yes, I did count each one of them.
I also pole vault and before each weekday meet I eat a potato from Mcalister's and on weekend meets I eat three bacon, egg, and cheese wakeup wraps from Dunkin Donuts along with a medium caramel iced coffee. I try to mimic all of my movements on meet days based exactly on what has worked in the past. I wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, listen to the same music ("The Climb" by Miley Cyrus is my go to pump up song for pole vault), along with several other micro things that have nothing to do with running or pole vaulting, like positioning my shoes in the exact same way that they were the last time I competed.
If you could do a sport other than XC/Track, what sport would it be, and why?
If I could do any sport outside of XC/Track, it would probably be football. I had always wanted to play football growing up, but I did not meet the weight requirements to play for Pop Warner. I actually was going to join my middle school team, which is why I sprinted during my seventh grade track season, until some of my teammates encouraged me to join the cross country team instead.