A dare is all it took for Christian Champen to turn to pole vaulting

Kent State’s Christian Champen takes part in the men’s pole vault during Friday’s meet against Akron. 

John Conley

At first, Christian Champen didn’t think of himself as a pole vaulter.

Instead of flinging himself into the air using a fiberglass pole, Champen spent his time glued to the ground as a member of Northmont Middle School’s cross country team.

That all changed, however, on a dare from his teammate.

It was in the middle of his team’s practice that he was dared by a teammate to try the pole vault. Champen — as any middle school boy would — took his teammate up on the bet and vaulted himself more than seven feet in the air.

“You’re a pole vaulter now,” his teammates chuckled to him.

In a week, he had added nearly two feet onto his vault, and a pole vaulter was born.

Champen holds the indoor pole vaulting record for Kent State at a height of 17’-5.75” after his performance at the Akron Invitational this past weekend.

“I attempted the record multiple times my freshman year,” Champen said. “After a sophomore slump season, I regained my focus and put attention where it was needed to perform at my best.”

Despite Champen beating Kent State’s program record in pole vaulting on Feb. 2, he didn’t win the event, as it was Akron senior Matthew Ludwig who took first place with a height of 17’-9.75.” Ludwig is ranked second nationally in the pole vault, and is Champen’s top competition.

“I prefer (Ludwig) to be my competition,” Champen said. “It drives me to want more knowing there is room for improvement.”

Despite having Kent State’s record, Champen still plans on keeping his pedal to the metal; the athlete within him keeps telling him to.

“Being an athlete is who I am,” Champen said. “If I don’t feel well that day, my performance goes down, but if I feel confident, I do well.” 

Setting Kent State’s pole vaulting record has been a goal of Champen’s since his freshman year.

“You can see a change in his demeanor and the way he looks at himself as an athlete,” coach Michael Schober said. “He finally figured out a few things and adjusted to the college lifestyle and is ready to tackle bigger feats.”

According to Track & Field Results Reporting System, Champen is tied for 20th nationally in the pole vault. He has a few more weeks to work his way into the top 16 and earn a trip to nationals in Alabama.

“Moving from 80th position to 20th in a day opens a lot of doors for me,” Champen said. “I can gear myself now to work on what I can improve to move into the top 16.”

Champen competes in both the pole vault and long jump, and his performance in both of these event is crucial to the team’s success.

“Christian is vital to our team in gaining overall team points and I expect him to help in that perspective as the season goes on,” Schober said.

Champen looks to continue his record year gearing up for the Kent State Tune Up Feb. 16 before competing in the Mid-American Conference Championship the following weekend. He currently sits second in the Mid-American Conference behind Akron’s Ludwig.

“These next few weeks are crucial in how I prepare for the MAC Championships and beyond. Once I’m able to knock down the fundamentals will I have more time to think of other improvements,” Champen said.

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