Kenny Greaves' focus has shifted ... for now.
May 12, 2010
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
The decathlon is a grueling 10-event competition that takes a toll on an athlete's body. It requires the use of all physical tools available. An injury to any part of the body can make competing impossible. For sophomore Kenny Greaves, that injury came in the form of his elbow, which required Tommy John surgery during the offseason.
The elbow injury was cause for concern due to one event, the javelin, which puts an enormous amount of pressure on the elbow. For that reason, Greaves could continue to compete in the heptathlon indoors, because the javelin isn't one of the seven events, but it would make the decathlon outdoors unrealistic. So, Greaves turned to what he knew best, the pole vault.
"It's been a little bit of a running joke, because I used to look like a decathlete pole vaulting," Greaves joked. "But now that I'm getting better and being more technical, I'm starting to look like a pole vaulter again. It's been fun."
In high school, Greaves focused primarily on the pole vault, where he was a three-time district champion. However, after committing to The University of Texas, he began to focus on the combined events. Season by season, Greaves saw marked improvement. He just missed All-Big 12 honors last year in the decathlon and he claimed his first all-conference honor earlier this season in the heptathlon.
But, when the season changed to outdoor, Greaves and the coaching staff knew he would need to pick an event to focus on while allowing his elbow to heal completely. After a short stint with the 400-meter hurdles, they decided the pole vault would be a way for him to not only compete, but help the team in the best way possible.
Assistant Coach Mario Sategna appreciates the selflessness of Greaves. Knowing that he can help the team at the pole vault, while rehabilitating his elbow, has added another element to the Longhorns' efforts.
"Kenny is such a versatile athlete and you have to be to do the decathlon," Sategna said. "But, the pole vault has always been his best event, so with the injury, we thought it would be a good idea for him to concentrate on one thing. He's such a team-first guy that he's been excited that there is a way for him to still help the team. He's been getting better and better with each practice and we're looking forward to seeing what he can do at the conference meet."
When training for combined events, Greaves is seemingly training for a different event each day in order to achieve strong marks. While the redshirt sophomore is excited to return to the multi-events next season, the consistency in training has been welcomed.
"It's been really nice to be able to focus on the vault," Greaves said. "There have been a few practices where I won't necessarily start off so great. We've been able to work through those first few jumps and actually get some work done by the end. It's been nice to be able to work through some things and analyze and break down the vault even more."
The Coppell, Texas native's work in the pole vault is clearly paying off. His personal-best pole vault mark has increased over a foot since last outdoor season. Approaching the end of the year, with conference and regional meets around the corner, Greaves is looking forward to seeing his improvement on a big stage.
"I just want to keep improving," Greaves, who also is a two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection as an architectural engineering major, said. "We've got not only conference coming up this weekend, but we're also looking at regionals. The main thing at conference is being clean at those early bars. That's a big deal. Also, I want to keep improving like I have been. I've cleared a PR the last two meets. I want to try to do that again."
With Sategna's help, Greaves has made a clean transition to the pole vault and continues to make strides. Another factor that Greaves attributes to his success is his camaraderie with freshman pole vaulter Hayden Clark.
"I think one thing that's helped is that I was kind of a more serious and focused guy," Greaves said. "Hayden likes to joke around and have a good time. That's helped during meets. It helps me to be more relaxed and to have more fun with it. That's been a plus."
Clark has enjoyed working with Greaves, as well.
"I wouldn't consider him serious," Clark laughed. "We know when it's time to work. Other times, we joke around. It's good. We have a good time, and we work when it's time to work. When it's time to relax, we do that. We help each other out a lot, especially in meets as far as personality and attitude. It's a good combination."
As he has become more comfortable as a pole vaulter, Greaves understands that his home is still in combined events. He has come to realize, however, that his time away from the decathlon to heal his elbow could be a blessing in disguise.
"I think jumping the marks I have this year will really help in the future," Greaves said. "It's one of those things that I definitely feel like will carry over to the decathlon."
Greaves is excited about the possibilities that his time at pole vault will bring as he moves forward in his career.
"The progression that I've made this year in the vault, jumping at those higher bars is like having an ace in my back pocket," Greaves said. "In the decathlon, jumping at those bars won't seem like a big deal anymore. My progression as a pole vaulter will definitely be something that will allow me to be a better decathlete."