Friends’ Central’s Robby Saligman is Main Line Boys’ Athlete of the Week

Robby Saligman

The 6-foot-4 senior trackman is rated third in the Pennsylvania Indoor Pole Vault Rankings. He has a half-dozen consecutive first-place finishes in the TFCA of GP Indoor series and set a new TFCA of GP Indoor Last Chance meet record at 14-8. He qualified for the TFCA of GP Meet of Champions and the Pennsylvania Indoor High School State Championship. He also runs the 4×400, 300-meter hurdles, long jumps and is a captain during his outdoor track season in the spring.

Q: Does your pole vault strategy change at all, vaulting indoors versus vaulting outdoors?

A:  My strategy does change a little depending on indoor and outdoor. Outdoors you have to be very aware of the weather. A gust of wind at the wrong time could break me into more pieces than Humpty Dumpty, so you have to be aware. Jumping outdoors you need to pay attention and fine tune your jump if it is warmer vs. colder, raining vs. dry, windy vs. not windy. Any different set of factors can change how high up on the pole I hold, which pole I use, and how far I run from. On a rainy day, two inches higher on the pole could be the difference between a happy Robby and all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men trying to put me together again. Indoors, the weather is always the same so it is more “business as usual.”

Q:  What (in your opinion) has been your best indoor pole vault to date this season? What do you think was the key to your performance that day?

A:  I think so far this season the best jump I had was at the Ocean Breeze invitational in Staten Island. It was not the highest bar I have ever jumped over, only 14-6, but I was about a foot over it. If only the bar was set higher I would be No. 1 in the state right now but that’s how the sport goes. That day I think the key was the energy in the building. All the other vaulters were cheering me on and the stands were packed so it hyped me up.

Q: You set a new TFCA of GP Indoor Last Chance meet record at 14-8 this winter. What was your most vivid memory of that vault, and what do you think was the key to your performance?

A: I had no idea I set the meet record until they announced it over the loudspeaker. I was just treating it like any other jump. I wanted to get to 15-1 to set a new personal record so 14-8 was just another step along the way. Once I found out I was like, “Oh, that’s cool I guess, I don’t have one of those yet.” Then I chuckled cause I was talking to myself and I was getting weird looks.

Q: What originally attracted you to the pole vault event? What (in your view) are the most important attributes of a good pole vaulter? What aspect of your pole vaulting are you currently working on the most?

A: I was a hockey player from third grade until ninth grade, when I suffered a bad concussion and the doctor told me that was it for me and contact sports. At that moment I thought to myself, ‘Well, what is the most dangerous most physical non-contact sport I can find?” Pole vaulting seemed like a good choice. I had seen some seniors at the time practice it after school so I decided to give it a try. 2 1/2 years later here I am. In my opinion the best pole vaulters are goofy, laid back and do not take much too seriously. We need to be a little “off” in order to hurl ourselves high into the air hoping we hit the pad. Besides that it helps if you have good body control – ex-gymnasts make really good pole vaulters because essentially the pole vault is a gymnastics routine on steroids. Right now I am working the most on body awareness, being 6-4 I have a lot of long limbs I need to keep track of when I am vaulting.

Q: Briefly describe for us your pre-vault preparation (physical, mental) on the day of an indoor pole vault event.

A: My pre-meet preparation starts the night before. I get crazy superstitious. I normally eat junk food and stay up really late because the one time that I ate healthy and went to bed early before a meet I came in last place. Ever since then I have done the opposite and it has worked out well for me. The day of a meet I always listen to a podcast on the drive to the meet and about 15 minutes before I start warming up I listen to really loud dub step music and get hyped. For me it is all the mental game – if I think I am going to do well and I have confidence, I normally will do very well, but if I get in my head at all that is the end for me. I do not worry about the physical aspect very much. I train hard every day so come meet time I know my body will be ready to perform.

Q: What has been the most important thing you have learned regarding pole vaulting this winter?
A: The most important thing this year that I have learned in regards to pole vaulting is the timing of the jump. It takes longer to get to 15 feet than it does to get to 10, so I have been working on being patient and letting the pole spring me up to where I need to go.
Q: Does your training for the 300-meter hurdles complement your training for the long jump?
A: Actually, the 300-meter hurdles is very counter productive to the long jump. The two events use completely different training techniques. For the long jump you want to activate the fast twitch muscle fibers in your legs. Because you are only running 30 meters on your approach, you need to get going fast as fast as possible. You do this by burning all the oxygen in your system as fast as possible in order for your legs to move quickly. For the 300-meter hurdles, if you use the same technique you will burn up before the halfway mark of the race. The 300-meter hurdles is still a sprint event but not 30 meters – you want to use your oxygen quickly but not that quickly or you will go lactic and your legs will feel like jelly.
Q: What colleges are among your current favorites? What track event(s) would you like to run for a college program? What do you think you might like to major in at college? Is there a career field that particularly interests you at the present time?
A: Among my current favorites are Notre Dame, Boston University, and Villanova. I would love to pole vault for any of those schools. Hopefully within the next week or two I will be able to commit to one of them, I still have one more round of visits I want to do. For a major I want to study communications so I can be a radio DJ when I grow up like Elvis Duran.
Q: Do you participate in any other sports or extracurricular activities at Friends’ Central? What sparked your interest in these activities?
A: I also play water polo for FCS. I have played since sixth grade and I love it. I am also a member of the Orchestra and jazz band at school, playing the trumpet and trombone. I like it because my instruments are loud and make funny noises, make me laugh.
Fun facts – Robby Saligman
Favorite book: Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss.
Favorite author: Dr. Seuss.
Favorite TV show: Family Guy.
Favorite movie: Finding Nemo.
Favorite athlete: Wayne Simmons of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Favorite pre-vault pump-up song: Go! by Firebeatz. (“I highly recommend it.”)
Favorite team: Philadelphia Flyers.
Favorite place to visit: Northern cold climate places.
Favorite pre-vault meal: “Cheese steak, cheese fries, pizza, wings, and mint chocolate chip ice cream with sprinkles! I love me some sprinkles.”
Favorite color: “Orange – Go Flyers!”
Person I most admire, and why: “Honestly, anyone that is being their authentic self. If you are you and you are proud of it then you have unmatched respect from me.”
Family members: “Lindsay, Nina, Daniel, Jessica (my siblings) Meg and Peter a.k.a mom and dad, Don, Gay and Alice a.k.a Poppy, Mimi and Mummels a.k.a Grandpa, Grandma, and yet another Grandma, and Roku (my dog). Those would just be my ‘nuclear’ family members as George P. Murdock liked to call it. But my family extends largely past that.”
(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)
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