If a gymnast joins South Aiken High School's track and field team, coach Russ Busbee has the perfect spot for that athlete.
"Once I find out they're a gymnast, I pick them for pole vault," he said.
That seems to be a good bet. Recent graduate and gymnast Allie Nicosia won the state title in the event in 2007 and placed second this year.
Rising senior Hope Bennett has shown she's no slouch in the event, either. She placed seventh at the state meet in May in Columbia.
Bennett said the tumbling and stunts in gymnastics are good preparations for pole vaulting.
"I think it's because you know where your body is, even in the air, and you're not scared even when you are upside-down," said Bennett, who started with gymnastics when she was about 4 years old. She did not try pole vaulting until she was in the ninth grade.
Bennett trains with Aiken Gymnastics.
One of the highlights for her in gymnastics came last summer when she traveled with her team to Innsbruck, Austria.
"There was a group of eight of us, and we stayed there a week. It was so amazing just to experience someone else's culture," she said.
While there, the gymnasts practiced with an Austrian team.
Bennett said her best event in gymnastics is the floor exercise.
"I like the choreography, dance and tumbling," she said.
"Hope has a natural ability," said Busbee.
She combines that natural ability with hard work and trains with a pole vault coach in Columbia to improve.
She's looking ahead to next spring and planning for her best pole vaulting season yet.
Her goals for next year are "to be the best at South Aiken and to place in the top three at state," she said.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at email@example.com.