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Men’s Track and Field: Schipper’s success continues family legacy

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, February 28, 2012

With five Big East pole vaulting titles and counting, senior Kevin Schipper is on a quest to continue his family’s dominance in the event and solidify himself as one of the most accomplished athletes in conference history.

Schipper captured his third consecutive Big East indoor title on Feb. 18, winning the pole vault with a jump of 5.25-meters and helping the Irish to their second conference indoor title in three years. For the Leo, Ind., native, the three-peat represents an important milestone.

“It’s big because consistency in this event is something that is hard to achieve, and for me, it’s been pretty consistent and that is what you look for,” Schipper said.

In his freshman season three years ago, Schipper showed promising talent by finishing second in the Big East indoor competition and fourth in the Big East outdoor competition, but has greatly improved his consistency over the past three years, Irish assistant coach Jim Garnham said.

“It’s more consistent from when he came in [as a freshman],” Garnham said. “He jumped 17 feet once as a freshman, after that it has been pretty much a consistent jump.”

Early in his collegiate career, Schipper benefited from the help of his older brother Matt Schipper, who won pole vaulting titles for the Irish in the Big East indoor championships of 2008 and 2009 and the Big East outdoor championships of 2009. In the 2009 Big East indoor championships, Matt Schipper cleared a height of 5.35-meters to deny his younger brother the title.

“I like [having brothers on the team], it’s good,” Garnham said. “They know each other, they are comfortable with each other, they can tell each other if one is messing up … [When] Matt was a junior and Kevin was a freshman [in 2009], Kevin was a better jumper than Matt, but Matt had a lifetime best indoor [jump to capture the title] … after that it was Kevin all the time.”

Although Kevin Schipper would surpass his brother the following year, the senior owes part of his success to his brother’s guidance, he said.

“He gave me a lot of really good advice when it came to certain aspects of the event,” Kevin Schipper said. “It’s a really mental event and you have to keep your mind right.”

Now Kevin Schipper has the opportunity to guide his younger brother David Schipper, a freshman pole vaulter at Notre Dame, like Matt Schipper guided him three years ago. The situations are not identical, though, Garnham said, because while Kevin challenged Matt immediately, the newest installment in the Schipper dynasty still has plenty of work to do.

“It is different because with Matt and Kevin it was always a competition — with David and Kevin, it’s not there yet,” Garnham said. “It is not that competitive because David is a good jumper, but he is not where Kevin is. But he will be, he is definitely that good.”

Having recently finished eighth in the Big East indoor championships, David Schipper will attempt to keep next year’s Big East title in his family. A fair amount of pressure accompanies the task, as the Schipper brothers have claimed the last four conference indoor titles and last three outdoor titles.

“Normally, people step up — just like when my brother Matt left, I stepped up and I think [David] will do the same,” Kevin Schipper said.

Before he hands over the reins to his younger brother, Kevin Schipper will attempt to take gold in his sixth consecutive Big East title at the conference outdoor championship in May.

“If I do that, I think that would be pretty close to the most Big East Championships anybody has won, and that is something I would like to do,” he said. “Also, just establishing that dominance, that Notre Dame is a powerhouse in pole vaulting in the Big East is something that means a lot.”

The Schipper brothers and the rest of the Irish will host the Alex Wilson Invitation March 2-3.

Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected].edu