Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Update + Video

     I have been on break since the Olympic Trials and it was long overdue. At the Trials I failed to make the final, but I took all three attempts in some unfavorable weather which was something to be happy with. It was tough to be happy at the time because simply clearing a bar is all it took to make the final. However, I was able to look back with no regrets because I tried as hard as I could and did not hesitate or give up at any point in the dangerous competition. After it was over I just enjoyed the other competitions and lived in the moment. It was a great experience and I had some fun times with my friends and family!
     After the Trials I did a couple of beach vaults before getting off my feet. I didn't have any spectacular performances, but I did end the season feeling extremely confident for next year. I also met with Neil Chasan, of the Sports Reaction Center, in early August and figured out the reason my foot had been hurting for months was due to a stress reaction in my 5th metatarsal. So I am currently in the middle of 6 weeks of no running or jumping. So I have been doing some cross training on the bike, elliptical, and other equipment at the gym. I have also been lifting like crazy and getting pretty damn strong, maybe the strongest I have ever been.
     The summers are short here in Seattle so I have been taking advantage of the nice weather by hitting the water often. I have been learning to wakeboard with our friends and doing flips off the diving boards as much as I can. I also had the opportunity to try trapeze at the Boeing Picnic that Lois' brother Josh brought us to. It was awesome! Here is a quick video to recap my summer thus far.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mission: Accomplished

      It is with great pleasure and relief that I write this post. I am going to vault in the U.S. Olympic Trials next week on Monday. This is the opportunity of a lifetime where I will compete with some of the Nation's greatest athletes for a spot on the #1 track team in the world! I enter this competition with a feeling of confidence because I have already overcome the largest obstacle, getting into the Trials. I am within 8" of second place going into the meet, meaning a place on the team is wide open and anything can happen!
     It is fun to think back on how my track career got started. I attended elementary school in a town of 2,000 people called Lovelock, NV and every year we ended school with a "Fun Day". It was a low key track meet with events like the softball throw instead of discus or javelin. My twin brother, Jacob, and I always came home with several first and second place ribbons even though we had no formal training in track. We just grew up playing outside all day, so running and jumping came to us naturally.
    Fast forward 16 years and I am still just a big kid competing for ribbons. The only differences are the marks have improved and the audience has gotten a little bigger. I still enjoy running as fast as I can and flying through the air like a wild man! I still get to run around in shorts and a tank top in the summer sun hanging out with friends, who also run track. My Mom still asks me to wear a helmet when I go out to play, because she knows I don't show much respect for gravity (or hard surfaces). And when I compete on Monday in the prelim I will remember that's what it's all about and I will live in that moment, rather than worry about what is next.
     As usual I will keep this short and finish with saying thank you to all of the people who have helped me reach my dream of vaulting 18' and competing at the Olympic Trials. My family who raised and supported me from the beginning. My friends who trained with and encouraged me. Coaches who shared their knowledge and experiences with me. UCS who supplies me with poles to vault on. Fans who get me fired up and support the sport itself. And of course God, who makes everything possible and gives us purpose in life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


     Over the last couple weeks I traveled down to southern California to compete at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). I spent about 12 days down there because I knew I would get to vault in great weather with high caliber athletes, a combination that would produce good results. My first meet on a Thursday at the OTC was good but not great. I made my opening bar of 17'7", but then failed to put up good jumps at 18'1.25". I decided to drive up to Mt. SAC in L.A. on Saturday to try again, but it was too soon after my previous meet and I was too fatigued to jump well. I ended that meet with a no height (NH). I decided to skip the next meet at Mt. SAC on Tuesday because I wanted to be more recovered for the next OTC meet.
     Later that week on Thursday my patience paid off as I was able to compete with more energy and less pain than the last competition. I opened at 17'7" again and then moved to 5.52m or 18'1.25". I kept taking off too far under throughout the competition, somewhere between 11'11" and 12'4". I was gripping at 16'2" so my takeoff should have been around 13'6", but I just couldn't get my feet down fast enough and my back was taking a beating because of it. Despite the poor takeoff spot I managed to use the biggest pole of my career thus far, a 5m 13.1 UCS Spirit and it felt great. I cleared 18'1.25" on my second attempt which provisionally qualified me for the Olympic Trials. As soon as I let go of the pole I knew I was going to make it and roared in celebration! It felt so exhilarating and relieving to clear that barrier of 18'. Jumping 18' was my career goal, the only thing I felt I needed to do in order to retire from the sport with no regrets, and I did it! As I walked off the pit I silently thanked the Lord for such an opportunity and high-fived my friends. I then had the bar raised to 5.62m or 18'5.25" but was unable to clear it. I kept hitting the gas too early and by the time I planted the pole I was out of steam and got stood up. I decided to do the next meet at Mt. SAC for fun, but NH'd again. This time however I opened at 18'1.25" and ended up blowing through the biggest poles in my bag, so I wasn't phased by the lack of a clearance.
     Now I am back in Seattle and playing the recovery game where I don't vault or do any high intensity workouts for a little while. My next meet is the Donovan Bailey Invitational in Edmonton, Canada. It will be my last competition before the Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR and will serve as a tune-up meet. I hope my mark holds up and gets me into the trials since they only take 24 athletes and I am tied for 19th. If I do make it into the Olympic Trials I will give U.S. track fans something to cheer for!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Catching Up

   Wow, it has been awhile since my last post! I have been traveling extensively and have competed in 3 meets since the last update. So here is a quick recap of what has been going on.
   Following the Stanford Invitational I competed in the Mt. SAC relays where I failed to clear a height. Next I returned to Stanford for the Payton Jordan Invitational where I cleared 17'7", but failed to make 18'0.5". I also ended up needing a bigger pole than was available at the meet, so for the next meet I ordered a new pole from UCS so that I would be prepared for good conditions. The next meet and most recent competition was in Eugene, OR where the Olympic trials will be held. I ended up jumping at 8:30pm so it was a little chilly, but we had a perfect tail wind which made for awesome vaulting conditions. I felt great running down the runway, however when I planted the pole I made some technical errors which caused me to miss my opening bar of 17'4.5". I was pretty disappointed with my performance because I had good conditions and felt great on the runway.
   Now I get a little break from competition so I can work on my technique before the next meet. I will be traveling to the Olympic Training Center (OTC) near San Diego on May 23 and will do a couple meets while I am there. The OTC is known for having great temperatures and tail winds as well as high caliber competitors. Therefore it will be a prime opportunity to improve my ranking before the Olympic Trials. It should be a really fun trip and I can't wait to get there!
   Here is a video of my clearance at the Payton Jordan and my attempts at the Oregon Twilight:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Season Opener + Video

I just returned from my first track meet of the outdoor season, the Stanford Invite in Palo Alto, CA. Overall the meet was a success and a good confidence booster for the rest of the year. The field was fairly large with 30 vaulters total, which resulted in a long competition. I ended up waiting 3 hours after the warm-up to attempt my opening height. This was something I expected for the most part, because this meet gives college vaulters of all levels a good opportunity to get a mark. So I patiently waited for the bar to reach 17'2.5" and then I began jumping. It was 71 degrees and sunny with light winds that only required a little patience to become favorable. I cleared my opening height on the first jump, but when the bar went to 17'6.5" I ran through on my first to attempts. This was something extremely rare for me to do, but I was having issues with hitting top speed to early and throwing off my plant. I was in unfamiliar territory jumping outdoors on a runway I had never jumped on, so I got the opportunity to practice making adjustments along the way. My third attempt was more controlled and I made it over with no problems. The bar was raised to 5.45m (17'10.5") and I made it on the first jump which ended up giving me the win. It was also a new PR and I was immediately engulfed by the feelings of happiness and relief. I thanked God as I walked off the pit. Not because I made a specific height, but because I felt so lucky to have the ability to do all the things I do and enjoy the fruits of my labor. My hope is that the spectators got as much enjoyment out of watching as I did out of performing. I then had the bar raised to 5.55m (18'2.5") to get an Olympic Trials qualifier. My first 2 attempts ended with me getting stood up because I miss gauged the winds, so on my 3rd attempt I waited for a light tail wind to come around. When it finally did I took my last jump which was reasonably close, but not quite enough. It was the highest bar I had ever attempted. Here is the video of my winning jump of 17'10.5".

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Great Practice + Video

Just a quick update on my training progress. I have much less knee pain now and had an awesome practice today. I took a couple vaults from 4 lefts on a 15' 13.0 pole and then moved back to 6 lefts. From 6 I blew through all the 16' poles including the 205lb (14.6), so I decided to head back to full approach and take a couple jumps on 5m poles.
I decided to do a little confidence test by taking my first full approach run on a bigger pole than I have ever started on, even in a meet. So I grabbed the 5m 13.8 and ran down the runway and planted it. I got stood up, but I knew I was in good shape so I moved the bar up to 18' and went back to take another jump. When I stepped on the runway I took a couple deep breaths with my eyes closed and focused on 2 cues. This is how I prepare for jumps in a meet. Then I opened my eyes, picked up my pole, and took off down the runway. I planted the pole and swung hard at which point I knew it was going to be good. When I pushed off the pole and went over the bar I realized it was my cleanest 18' jump I had ever had and I roared in celebration. My training partners all high-fived me and we immediately watch the replay on the TiVo. My technique wasn't great, but I still cleared it with authority and gained a huge amount of confidence for the outdoor season. I knew I had what it would take to make the Olympic Trials, but now I believe a spot on the Olympic team is in the possible realm. Here is the video of my jump today:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back in the Groove

It has been a little while since my last post, but there hasn't been much going on to write about. My last indoor meet was the UW Last Chance Qualifier and it ended the same way all of my other home meets did, with a no height. I had been staying mentally tough this year, even though I had not vaulted to my potential I didn't let it get me down...until the last meet. After "no height"ing more times in one season than I had in my entire career I gave in to the anger and frustration that had been trying to creep in. My confidence was shaken and I felt as though I didn't have the willpower necessary to break though to the next level. After stewing for a couple days I started to think clearly again and made a plan to recharge for the outdoor season. I decided to focus on getting injury free, strong, and fast while holding off on vault practice for a couple weeks. My feet, knees, and back had taken a beating indoors and I was due for some rehab and rest. After some recuperation I began lifting more frequently again and did my first vault practice after a 2-1/2 week break. It was very productive, I was like Liam Neeson in the movie Taken, just on a mission to kick ass. I had total focus during my jumps and was able to get on a 16' 205lb pole from 6 lefts, which was a new landmark for me. My technique was better than it had been all season and now my confidence is renewed. I am really pumped to compete in Stanford on April 7th, my first outdoor meet of the year. Hopefully I will have some good results to report and maybe even a little tan! Until next time, this is Levi signing out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reload for Outdoors + Simplot Video

This last weekend was my last chance to improve my mark before USA Indoor Nationals, but I was unsuccessful. I had some decent jumps and made my highest opening height of 17'5", however when it mattered most I was unable to leave the crossbar up. Standard placement and pole selection are two strategies that I am really going to work on for the outdoor season. Overall, I had a fun indoor season marked by consistently high jumps and that is the hardest thing for a vaulter to accomplish, so I that gives me confidence.Plus I was able to visit my Idaho friends that I had not seen in quite awhile and also got to see Paul Litchfield get an Olympic qualifying mark of 5.52m. In other good news I just received a PowerBar sponsorship so now I have plenty of food for workouts and competition days. I have a lot of reasons to be positive right now, for example; I am also happy just to be able to physically do what I do. I am very blessed and even after poor performances I thank God for the abilities and opportunities that I have. I feel that my abilities should be used to entertain, encourage, and help others so that they aren't squandered, and pole vault is a way to do that.
Well, I hope you enjoy the videos and updates! Better things to come this outdoors.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Guts = Glory

This weekend I decided to try something new. I talked to my twin brother Jacob after the last meet and we agreed that starting low when I am having great warm-ups is a waste of energy. He also expressed to me his regret for never having opened at a PR or a really high bar in a high jump competition. So at the end of the conversation I agreed to open at a minimum of 18' this weekend just to see what it was like and also because I felt I had a good chance of making it.
Well, when I got to the meet I saw the bar progression went from 5.48m(17'11.75") to 5.53m(18'1.75") so in keeping my promise I passed to 5.53m. The top pole vaulter's in the world can open at this height no problem, however it is 6" higher than any bar I have ever cleared and to give some perspective, it is higher than the opening bar of the 2008 Olympic finals. Being extremely nervous and choking in the moment was a strong possibility, but instead I came into the meet with confidence. I have felt like I have the ability to jump 18+ for some time now, but I have only attempted 18' in one meet in my entire career. And if you want to make a bar you have to be jumping at it. So that is what I did.
My first attempt went well, too well and I blew through my 5m 13.8 pole. So I moved up to the 5m 13.5 for the second attempt and had an okay jump. I regained my focus for the third attempt and it was much better, but I knocked the bar off on the way down. Bummer...but the video gave me a real confidence boost, but you can decide for yourself. I feel like an Olympic Trials qualifier is within reach now.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Good, but not great.

I traveled to Moscow, ID this weekend to compete in the University of Idaho's Vandal Indoor meet. I had never been there before and was pleasantly surprised at how nice the setup was; big new pit, raised runway, and nice standards. I traveled down with some of my training partners to get a better mark for USA Indoor Nationals and it went pretty well.
I had great warm-ups again, but I decided to start a little low (16'7.5") so I wouldn't get a no height. I ended up clearing that bar on my second attempt, then made 17'1.5" on my second attempt, then cleared 17'7.25" on my third attempt. Finally, a new PR! However, I was barely able celebrate it because I have been jumping higher than that for quite some time now and it just felt like a bar that I had no reason not to make. I was/am happy to have up'd my personal record, but I am not content yet.

I took a couple okay jumps at 17'11.25", but by then my technique was falling apart due to fatigue. I realized that starting as low as I did and taking quite a few warm-up jumps left me with very little reserve for the high bars, the ones that matter the most. So what I am taking away from this meet is a new PR of 5.37m and a realization that I need to save some energy for the end of the competition.
By the way here is a video of my warm-up jump with the standards set at 18'6", however it is a bungee that is hanging down a bit.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Intro and Current Status

Hi all, my name is Levi Keller and I am a US pole vaulter. I don't want to start this story in the middle so I will give you some brief background information and catch you up to the present.

My track career started turning into something serious during high school in Winnemucca, NV when I was primarily a high jumper. I had decent marks in the jumps and expressed interest in the decathlon, which is what caught the attention of Dave Nielsen at Idaho State. This is where my pole vaulting journey begins: I had to learn the vault, among other things, to do the decathlon. So I started pole vaulting my senior year in 2004 and performed terribly, only managing to straight pole 11'6". I decided to switch back to long jump before the state meet and wait until college to pole vault again.

College track was like a universe from another dimension. I was getting beat all the time and felt extremely slow in comparison to the other guys, but I also discovered I was a natural in the vault. With Dave Nielsen's coaching and a better pole selection my progress kicked into overdrive. I cleared 15'3" as a freshman and finished my college career with a vault PR of 17'3" (high jump 6'9" and decathlon 7008).

Since college I have continued training with the plan of competing at the 2012 Olympic Trials. My wife Lois has supported me the entire way and has shared in this dream of competing at the trials (in the 3000m steeplechase. We moved to Seattle, WA about a year ago to take advantage of the training conditions, awesome meets, and close airport. Since then both of us have made notable progress and are edging ever closer to our goals.

As for current news, I have been training at the University of Washington with Scott Roth, Jason Colwick, Ryan Brown, Scott McCoy, Ryan Vu, Carly Dockendorf, and Norris Frederick under the supervision of Pat Licari. My training has been going really well this year, with hardly any injuries and substantial improvements in speed and technique. I have been getting on big poles and putting jumps up pretty high, but without the bars show it. This last weekend at the UW Invitational wasn't any different. Started out with a great warm-up and got onto my big poles early, but then failed to make my opening bar of 5.16m or 16'11". Had a high but shallow first jump, blow through on the 2nd, went up a pole to the 5m 13.5 and ended up shallow again. 

(sigh)...fate is only delaying the inevitable, I will jump high and I will make it to the trials.
To all of my fellow vaulters and friends out there, good luck in 2012!