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Pole vaulter Jacobs is all-in at Nebraska

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Century graduate and star pole vaulter Andrianna Jacobs is showing strong progress at Nebraska as well as plenty of patience.

Andrianna Jacobs, the top high school pole vaulter in the country her senior year at Rochester Century, has learned patience at Nebraska, that deconstruction must happen before construction.

And Nebraska pole vault coach T.J. Pierce? His discovery has been that Jacobs — in her second year as a Cornhuskers vaulter — is everything she was cracked up to be, and more.

Not only is Jacobs a fabulous athlete with an attitude to match, but she’s a blast.

Jacobs’ connection to Super Heroes is an example.

"Andy is one of those people who is an absolute joy and pleasure to be around," Pierce said. "I really like the fact that she wears some kind of Super-Heroes socks to meets, such as the Avengers or Captain America. She’s got a great imagination and a fun-loving personality."

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Jacobs also has some nice medals.

Those were earned last year as a freshman, when she finished second twice in the Big Ten Conference meets, first indoors, then outdoors.

It was rare territory for someone so young.

"Those were some of the best freshman female performances we’ve had in years," said Pierce, who’s watched Jacobs go from a personal-best of 13-feet-7 as a high school senior, to 13-9 1/4 at Nebraska, and believes she’ll easily eclipse 14 feet before her college career is finished.

"The Big Ten Conference meet is pretty cutthroat, and sometimes you don’t know how a freshman will react to that level of competition," Pierce said. "There is a lot more pressure and a lot more atmosphere there. But Andy handled it beautifully."

BROKEN ARM

Jacobs, a former three-sport star at Century (diving, gymnastics, track and field) and four-time state pole vault champion, figured to ramp those Big Ten performances up one more notch by winning the indoor and outdoor vaults this season.

But a broken arm suffered in early January, the result of a freak accident while training on a gymnastics high bar, has gotten in her way. It left her with a snapped-in-half ulna and a cracked radius.

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Jacobs is only now starting to vault again, a little bit at a time, part of a patient approach that’s been forced on her. The Big Ten indoor meet has since come and gone, and Jacobs’ ability to participate in the outdoor meet is in question. This season could turn into a redshirt year for her, which would give Jacobs three more years of competition at Nebraska.

"Initially, I was pretty upset about it," Jacobs said. "But T.J. called me into his office a couple of hours after the X-ray results were in and he immediately came up with a game-plan for what I could do. I’ve done a lot of speed work since and worked on a lot of technical stuff."

Jacobs struggled without being able to vault. But she hung in there, big picture in mind.

"I (watched) all of my teammates vaulting and it was hard because I wanted to do that," he said. "But I told myself that I can get faster and that it will make me better. Now, I feel so much faster than before. Breaking my arm was a bad incident, but it’s going to make me better in the end."

While the injury toyed with Jacobs’ patience, it wasn’t her first test since setting foot in Lincoln. Her initial one happened almost immediately under Pierce when he watched her longtime 16-step approach down the pole vault runway and told her to subtract two of those steps, at least for now.

That was the deconstruction phase of things under Pierce.

He wanted his star pupil to show more control with her hands just before planting the pole onto the ground and vaulting. Sixteen steps allowed Jacobs plenty of speed and momentum, but shaky hand placement.

"T.J. wants me to perfect 14 steps before I go back to 16 steps," Jacobs said.

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Jacobs is now good with that. When it comes to being coached, she’s all in, even though change can be difficult.

"You need to become comfortable being uncomfortable," Pierce explains of new techniques. "As soon as you get too comfortable, that’s when your performances tail off a bit. We’re trying to make (Jacobs) more efficient.

"Andy has had some days where it didn’t go so hot and she struggled because this is something new and different. But she has been unbelievably patient. It doesn’t matter how many reps it takes with her."

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