It is a rare occurrence when a freshman is able to break a school record in his or her first competition. It is even more rare when they break their own record in the same season – twice. But for freshman pole-vaulter Brittany DalCais, this is exactly what has happened for the women’s track and field star this year.
DalCais’ pole-vaulting career began at the end of her freshman year at West Milford High School in Hewitt, N.J., when her coach recommended that she try her hand at the sport. It proved to be a perfect match and DalCais continued pole-vaulting throughout her high school career before coming to Oswego State in the fall.
“I love the track team,” DalCais said. “Some people join sororities, I have my track team. They’re like my family.”
DalCais needed just one meet to shatter a previous pole-vaulting record set by Katy Schmidt and Abby Oliver. Schmidt and Oliver previously held the record for highest pole-vault at 9 feet 6 ¼ inches. In her first collegiate meet for the Lakers at the St. Lawrence Invitational on Jan. 21, DalCais recorded a school-record pole vault of 10 feet 6 inches, good for third place in the event. Her performance qualified her for the ECAC Championships from March 2-3 in New York City.
“My first college meet was really nerve-racking because I had only been jumping for two weeks and before that I hadn’t jumped since the summer,” DalCais said. “During the fall season our coach left so there was no way that I could jump. As soon as the new coach came in I had two weeks of practice.”
However, months before the start of the season, DalCais found herself in an uncomfortable situation when former head coach Bobby Wilson, a pole vault-oriented coach, resigned in September to take the head coaching job with the track and field team at Central Michigan. Wilson, who recruited DalCais to come to Oswego State, tried to persuade her to come to Central Michigan, but the travel distance from her hometown was too substantial.
“It was hard at first,” DalCais said. “But once the new coach (David Thompson) came in, it was a better match. We get along great and he knows a lot about pole-vaulting.”
But the St. Lawrence Invitational was just the beginning for DalCais’ memorable season. She went on to break her own pole-vaulting record the following weekend at the Cortland Classic, registering a height of 10 feet 10 ¼ inches. DalCais’ performance earned her first place in the event, besting the second place finisher by four inches.
Although she did not break her own record for a second time at the Hamilton Invitational on Feb. 4, DalCais did finish third with a height of 10-feet 6-inches. She also tried her hand at the 400m dash, finishing third with a time of 1:03.58.
DalCais nearly broke her own pole-vaulting mark at the Cornell Invitational with a height of 10-feet 10-inches, which gave her a sixth-place finish out of 24 pole-vaulters. DalCais had the second best showing amongst SUNYAC representatives in the event.
After not competing in the RIT Tiger Invitational, DalCais returned to competition in the Deneault Invite hosted by Cornell University. She placed eighth with a height of 10 feet 10 inches, again just falling short of her previous mark. DalCais finished ahead of the rest of the SUNYAC field in the event.
With back-to-back heights falling just short of her own school record, DalCais had arguably the best showing of her young career at the SUNYAC Championships hosted by Hobart William Smith on Feb. 26. DalCais placed first in the pole vault with a school record height of 11 feet 5 ¾ inches. Not only did DalCais break her own school record for the second time this season, but she also became the first female in Oswego State history to ever win the pole vault at the SUNYAC Championships. She also became the first female in Laker history to finish an event in first place at SUNYACs since 2002, when Alisia Knight won the high jump and Jackie Cianfarano won both the long and triple jumps.
“It was really exciting because I wasn’t even ranked first,” DalCais said. “For me to jump and win, especially against all the seniors, it was really exciting. I was really proud.”
DalCais appeared in the ECAC Championships the following weekend, finishing 22nd out of 34 competitors with a height of 10 feet 6 inches. DalCais said that she sprained her ankle during her first jump, which hindered any chance of posting a height that would qualify her for Nationals. She still managed to have the second-best performance among SUNYAC competition.
DalCais showed that it did not make a different whether she pole vaulted indoors or outdoors, as she has placed first in the first two outdoor track and field events this season. She took first place in her first outdoor event of the season at the Hamilton College Continental Invitational with a height of 10 feet. Although it was her shortest mark of her career, it still bested the school’s old record by 3 ¾ inches.
Her fourth first-place finish came in the Nazareth/Rochester City Classic on April 7, where DalCais’ height of 10 feet 8 inches outperformed the second place finisher by 1 foot 7 ¾ inches. DalCais’ first-place score qualified her for the ECAC Championships on May 17-18.
DalCais has set high goals for her future. By her senior year, DalCais wants to not just qualify for Nationals, but win the event. She is aiming to jump a height of 13 feet during her collegiate career.
“I set my standards really high because I want something to keep striving for,” DalCais said. “Right now I know I want to jump 13 feet. I want to be an All-American. I want to place top eight in the nation.
DalCais continues her record-breaking season with the University of Rochester Invitational on Saturday, April 14.