By DAVE WHITLEY
They’re like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Penn and Teller, peanut butter and jelly.
Alan Gulledge and Jeff Hansen are two athletes with a strong friendship and a strong drive that is carrying them to the pinnacle of collegiate athletics.
Both will compete in the NCAA Indoor Track Championships this weekend in Fayetteville, Ark. The two are No. 10 and 11, respectively, in the nation in pole vault this season and are gunning to prove themselves as All-Americans.
Injury has riddled the pair throughout the latter half of season, but both are determined to shine while among the best pole-vaulters in the nation.
For Hansen, the NCAA Championships will be his first competitive jumps since reinjuring his shoulder in a meet in Nebraska over a month ago. A sore groin has plagued Gulledge recently and limited his practice jumps. But these snags have to be set aside.
“I’m used to pole vaulting with pain,” Hansen said.
This is the first time a school has ever had two vaulters participate in nationals and both see this as a great advantage.
“We know what it takes for the other to jump well,” Gulledge said.
While a coach cannot be present in the inner area of the track, the two teammates can communicate easily with each other and be a coach between jumps.
This can serve as a confidence boost and retain focus during the long wait between jumps.
“As much as physical stamina, you’ve got to have mental stamina out there,” Gulledge said.
“It’s great to have someone there to push you.”
The two have been training together for over a year and know each other’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
“We work out together. We do everything together,” Gulledge said. “Even rehab.”
Hansen, a junior, is making his second trip to the nationals, while this is the first for the senior Gulledge.
“I’d much rather see him win since this is his last chance,” Hansen said.
Gulledge also holds this mutual respect for his teammate.
“I credit a lot of my success to my training partner,” Gulledge said.
Many long days and late nights were required to reach this stage and now they can compete against the premiere collegiate vaulters.
“I guess that’s why I’m not married yet,” Gulledge said.
Any predictions about the outcome?
“Call me when it’s over,” Hansen said.