Sarah Ouellette of Morse High won the girls’ pole vault by leaping 2 feet higher than the competition at the 2023 Class B indoor track championships in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The pole vault was not entirely new to Sarah Ouellette when she reached Morse High in Bath three years ago. Her older brother had tried it, and her gymnastics background helped with kinetic awareness.

Still, she was basically a novice in the event entering the Class B indoor track state meet as a sophomore in February 2022, and she was using a stiff pole. An assistant coach from another school, Freeport, noticed her potential, however.

“You’re really good at this,” Jared Boudreau told her, “but you don’t have (an appropriate) pole.”

Boudreau gave her a few pointers and lent her a more flexible pole. She wound up clearing 8 feet, 6 inches, good enough for eighth place.

“That was the first time I had any kind of help,” Ouellette said. “I was really on my own for all of freshman and sophomore year.”

Last winter, Ouellette continued her upward arc. She cleared 10-6 to win the Class B title … surpassing by 2 feet the silver and bronze medalists, both of them from Freeport.


“Hey, we’re all in this together,” said Boudreau, who counts 11 extended family members as pole vaulters, including Thornton Academy vaulting guru Paul Snyder, his brother-in-law. “We want to grow this sport. It’s something that we all encourage and enjoy seeing each other succeed. We want all the athletes to be safe and be able to do their best.”

One of Boudreau’s athletes, Freeport senior Reece Perry, is the defending Class B boys’ champion. He puts it this way: “We’re not competing against each other. We’re all competing against gravity, to see who can jump higher.”

Reece Perry of Freeport High is the defending Class B state champion in the pole vault, both indoors and outdoors. At the indoor state meet, he broke a record that had stood since 1986 by clearing 14 feet, 1 inch. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Pole vaulters, Perry said, seem to be a breed of their own. Sprinters, hurdlers and runners of varying distance all compete alongside one another, he continued, so they tend to avoid becoming overly chummy with each other.

Vaulters are different, Perry said. They practice together. They hang out together at meets. They advise and exhort each other.

“Everyone who pole vaults kind of lacks some self-preservation,” Perry said. “It takes someone with no common sense to run at an immovable pit with a really long stick, and try to jump off the ground with it and bend it and fly up in the air and actually land and be safe.”

Even though Ouellette lives in Woolwich and Perry in Freeport and the schools are 18 miles apart and compete in different conferences, they have bonded over a shared love of pole vaulting.


“There aren’t a whole lot of pole vaulters (in Maine), and not a lot of people who know the sport that well,” Ouellette said. “So when you find another person, you really become friends with them. In the last year, Reece and I have worked a lot together. It’s really nice to have him because I know we’re both working on the same thing.”

Already this season, Ouellette has established a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference record by clearing 11-6. She’s done it twice. The Class B state record, for marks achieved only during state championship meets, is 11-0, set more than two decades ago by Hermon’s Chantelle Haggerty in 2002. The highest any Maine girl has cleared is 12-7 3/4, by Bethany Dumas of Cony in 2007.

Ouellette said she envisions clearing 12 feet this winter, and “if I’m fast and everything goes right, I’m very confident I can clear 12-7 as well. My goal is 13 (feet), and to be honest, that is a big jump compared to my PR, but I’ve had a lot of training and my coaches say I’m ready. The time will come.”

A surprise phone call this summer from a new assistant coach led to Ouellette recently signing a letter of intent to continue her career at Division II Roberts Wesleyan University in Rochester, New York. The new assistant coach happens to be Jenn Suhr, an Olympic silver and gold medalist and current world record holder in the indoor vault (16-6).

Suhr, a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan, had seen the YouTube channel Ouellette created to showcase her pole vaulting prowess. Ouellette plans to study biochemistry and exercise science with an eye toward a possible career in sports medicine.

As for Perry, he first dabbled in track as an eighth-grader in the Yarmouth school system. After moving to Freeport, he joined track at the encouragement of a friend, Enoch Boudreau, who wound up setting a school record of 12-1 for the pole vault.


“I thought it was absurd,” Perry said. “How could someone ever jump that high?”

But the hook was set. Perry has a background in gymnastics and loves to snowboard. He said he’s always been interested in jumping and flipping. As a sophomore, he placed fifth at the Class B state meet, clearing 10-6. As a junior, he won decisively, breaking a record that had stood since 1986 by clearing 14-1.

A dislocated left shoulder cost him six weeks of the outdoor track season, but Perry still managed to return for the state meet and won Class B at 14 feet. Over the summer, he won a regional meet to qualify for nationals, held at historic Hayward Field in Oregon. He tied for 27th at 12-11 1/2 among a field of three dozen boys aged 17 and 18.

Maine’s high school pole vault indoor record is 16-7 by Thornton Academy’s Travis Snyder, Paul’s son and now a decathlete at the University of Connecticut. Perry, who has yet to choose a college, knows it’s a high bar, but not impossible.

“The original goal in my head was always 15 feet,” he said. “That’s the number I want this season. Outdoor, I want to see what I can do after that.”

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