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Track and Field

Richartz transforms from walk-on to one of Notre Dame’s best

| Wednesday, May 3, 2017

For Irish senior pole-vaulter Nathan Richartz, the entirety of his Notre Dame career can seemingly be boiled down to one word: metamorphosis. From a largely unknown freshman determined to walk-on to one of the most decorated athletes on the current roster, Richartz has seen himself improve and grow in countless ways on and off the field, all the while hoping to instruct and inspire others along his journey.

Irish senior pole vaulter Nathan Richartz leaps into a jump during the Blue-Gold Invitational on Dec. 2 at Loftus Sports Center.Chris Collins | The Observer
Irish senior pole vaulter Nathan Richartz leaps into a jump during the Blue-Gold Invitational on Dec. 2 at Loftus Sports Center.

“When I first came in I was scrappy and had a lot to prove,” Richartz said. “I always just wanted to be a significant contributor on the team, and so in my early years I was really focused on myself and my personal development. These past two years, I’ve opened up my vision and really tried to help other teammates, and adopted more of a leadership and role model position, because I have learned and improved a lot in my time here and I think a lot of other people can learn from the experiences I’ve gone through. It’s really been a good last year by giving back to some of the younger kids on the team, who are in the same position I was in my freshman year.”

Due to his immense improvement and leadership qualities, Irish head coach Alan Turner named him a captain, and reflected upon the senior’s transformation: both the surprise that came with it and the hard work that went into it.

“Nate was a walk-on guy who wasn’t coming in with big marks,” Turner said. “So we were thinking ‘you just need to get consistent at jumping in the high 16s’. And each year he got better and better, and junior year he just took off and everything started to click. As a testament to him and to coach Jim Garnham, [pole vault] is the most technical event in the sport — there are literally dozens of things that can go wrong within a split second — so he’s really a student of the pole vault.”

A diligent learner, Richartz explained that the nature of the pole vault allows for constant improvement, and that the overall experience of the vault keeps him coming back for more.

“Just the act of it is fun, in and of itself,” Richartz said. “There’s a moment in the vault where you’re just completely weightless, and you’re looking at the bar or down at the ground, and that’s just a big rush and a truly addictive feeling. I also like the vault because it’s so incredibly technical and complex, and so there’s always things I can be improving upon. Sometimes it’s frustrating because when I watch videos of my jumps I’m always seeing things to fix, and sometimes I need to be a little easier on myself, but that’s one element I love about the pole vault: there are always things to work on to get better and go higher.”

With constant improvement his calling card, it stands to reason that Richartz’s final season would be his best, and the senior from Island lake, Illinois has indeed accomplished exactly that. This season, Richartz placed first at the Meyo Invitational in February and a week later broke his own school record — previously 5.46 — with a 5.50m vault at the Tiger Paw Invitational and was named Conference Performer of the Week. Then, Richartz broke his record again with 5.51m vault at the ACC/Big 10 Challenge in April and was named ACC Field Performer of the Week. Finally, last weekend Richartz took home the pole vault title at the Penn Relays – adding another accolade to a season that for Richartz and the Irish seems like a dream come true.

“It’s been everything I could have wanted my senior year season to be,” Richartz said. “Freshman year I told my coach that I wanted to jump 18 feet by my senior year, and now to have that materialize and come true is amazing.”

“I’m happy to have him on our team,” Turner said. “He’s a great guy, and he’s what you want in a student-athlete and a team captain. He’s earned all his accolades because he works his tail off and leads by example.”

Although everyone is thrilled that Richartz has soared this far, the senior plans to fly even higher. Richartz commented that before this season is over, he’d like to jump 5.60 meters — a mark that would blow his current school record out of the water. If history is any indication, it would be unwise to bet against him reaching it.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to formerly serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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