OXFORD – Ole Miss pole vaulters and their coach pass around credit like a hot potato.
Regardless of who finally holds it, results have been good for the Rebels as they head to the SEC outdoor championship meet at South Carolina this weekend.
Rebels' assistant Brian Porter is in his second season with the program after serving previously with Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith at Southern Illinois.
His arrival has coincided with notable improvement for two vaulters, both from Northeast Mississippi.
Callie Watson, a senior from Tupelo, notched a personal record 13-8 ½ last Saturday, a first-place finish in her final home meet.
Katy McAuley, a third-year sophomore from Pontotoc, was third at 13-0 3/4.
Porter’s role in helping his athletes achieve, he says, has been less about tinkering with their technique and more about simply getting them to believe in their ability.
“Katy is probably one of the most talented vaulters I’ve ever coached. I just reiterate to her, ‘You are good. You’re a great vaulter.’ I think her confidence has steamrolled the past two years,” he said.
“Callie’s mindset has completely changed from last year to this year. I’m not taking any credit for that. This is her believing, ‘This is my last go-round as a senior.’ Her mindset is unbelievably better in that she believes she’s going to work harder than anyone else.”
McAuley was recently named rookie of the year at the Rebels Choice Awards, recognition spanning all women’s sports on campus.
She was ranked No. 15 among freshman female vaulters in 2016. This season she vaulted a career-best 13-4¼ at LSU the last weekend in April.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my coach. He’s helped me from Day 1,” McAuley said. “He’s changed my run. I’m faster. My strides are longer which gives me more energy at the take-off.”
McAuley will be competing in her second SEC outdoor meet.
“I really want to clear 13-8. That’s the goal. If I clear 13-8 that will put me in a good position at regionals to maybe make it to the national meet.”
While at Tupleo, Watson was an all-state cross country runner and was twice the state pole vault runner-up at 11-0.
Her vault in her last home meet ranks her No. 25 in the NCAA this season and No. 3 all-time at Ole Miss.
Watson is aiming for a 14-foot vault at the SEC meet. Her best vault before Porter’s arrival was 12-0 ½ at Arkansas State as a freshman in 2014. Her best jump as a sophomore was 11-2½.
She credits Porter’s drills for helping her increase power on the runway and his video skull sessions for helping improve her timing.
“We break down the vault little by little. I finally feel like I’m tapping into the potential I always knew I had,” Watson said.
With that in mind it’s a bittersweet feeling for Watson as her career winds down.
“My first two years were rocky. Then Porter came in, and it’s really flipped my life completely upside down. It’s really flown by. I’m sad it’s over. If I could get another year I would.”