Training With His Idol Inspires Gamecock Transfer Elliott Haynie
March 18, 2009
Story by Kim Osborne, South Carolina Media Relations
For University of South Carolina pole vaulter Elliott Haynie, there is no time like the present to switch things up. After a self-proclaimed "disappointing" 2008 NCAA Indoor Championship where he placed 10th, he realized that in order to progress with his career he needed change something. So Haynie transferred from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina to USC, where the junior will begin his Gamecock career this weekend with the start of the outdoor season.
Haynie's biggest obstacle so far has been transferring itself. Although he had the support of family and friends, Haynie said that "he also had a lot of negative support." His coach at Gardner-Webb, Brain Baker, was his best friend, which made it even harder to tell him that he was transferring. Yet Haynie was given the opportunity to come to USC and train under his idol, Lawrence Johnson, which made the decision easier.
"It's like dreaming of being Michael Jordan when you were a little kid and then having him be your coach when you are older," Haynie said of Johnson.
Haynie first heard of Johnson at a track camp during his junior year of high school. Johnson worked his way up to the top of the pole vault list, winning seven US national championships and one world championship.
"I never realized that there were other black pole vaulters out there," Haynie recalled, and Johnson has been his idol ever since.
Already Haynie is learning from two-time Olympian Johnson. It becomes easier to learn from Johnson in knowing that the coach was a four-time NCAA champion and six-time SEC Champion while vaulting his way to the top of the Tennessee record books.
"When I came here to South Carolina, I suddenly realized that I didn't understand a lot of things about pole vaulting although I had natural talent," Haynie said of his learning experiences.
Having only pole vaulted for six years, Haynie is a four-time Atlantic Sun conference champion and has appeared in the NCAA Indoor Championship twice. Yet with the help from his all-star coach, Haynie revisited the basics.
"I am basically starting all over again," he said. "You have to get comfortable with the style of the coach before you can learn anything."
With a personal record of 17 feet and 8 inches, Haynie has set his sights on his next record: Johnson's NCAA outdoor record. While he is at USC, both Haynie and Johnson want him to break Johnson's record of 19 feet 8 inches. His goals for the season seem lofty but Haynie says that "everyone's goals are the same; we all want to get into the National Championship."
His long-range goals include making the United States Champion Outdoors World Team, qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics and being the first person to jump 21 feet. Motivated by the constant desire to clear the next bar, Haynie wants to see all his hard work pay off.
"With pole vaulting, there are so many lows and only a few highs," Haynie said. "But when you reach that high and clear the bar, it feels amazing."
Starting halfway through his junior year of high school, Haynie found his own way into the sport. He volunteered on a whim, ending the season second in the state of Georgia with a jump of 14 feet.
"I think it was a natural progression for me," Haynie said. "When I was a little kid, I did like to jump over things with a stick."
Training all year round could burn an athlete out, but Haynie doesn't seem phased by it and is able to have a normal college experience along with being a member of the track team.
"I understand that there is a time commitment to any sport," Haynie said. In his spare time, Haynie is a typical college student who likes to hang out with his friends.
With the current track season underway, Haynie is expecting big things to happen while wearing his USC uniform.