They couldn’t be anymore different.
But they find themselves shooting for the same goal in the same sport heading to the NCAA East Preliminaries in Florida beginning Thursday.
Shawn Light is a walk-on pole vaulter for the University of Akron. Ariane Beaumont-Courteau competes on the women’s side as a scholarship athlete.
Light began vaulting in the seventh grade.
“He didn’t do much in high school, now he’s doing some great things,” Zips coach Dennis Mitchell said.
Courteau, who is from Montreal, picked up the sport as a 5-year-old, courtesy of her father who coached the sport. In fact, she comes from a family of athletes, including two siblings who compete in the sport and a mother who played on Canada’s 1976 Olympic handball team that finished sixth in Montreal.
“I loved it right away,” she said. “There wasn’t any pressure, but I always wanted to do sports. Since my parents were really active, I always wanted to do what they were doing. I didn’t feel any pressure from them, but I chose to follow their path.”
With Light, it seems more like a way for him to stay on an even keel. He acknowledges that he does better in the classroom and his sport if he’s busy, but he has no plans to continue beyond college.
The two also are MAC champions. Courteau took the title with a jump of 13 feet, 4½ inches. Light won with a vault of 16-8.
It was a new feeling for Light, who by his own admission “blew up this year” after being redshirted as a freshman.
“I was surprised because I thought my teammate Joe Wesley, he should have won. I don’t know how the bar came off with him. I just happened to have fewer misses,” he said Tuesday at the Stile Field House. “I just wanted us to go one-two. I just wanted the points for the team.”
It was déjà vu for Courteau, however. It was her second conference title, having won one for indoor vaulting last season.
“I knew what to expect more than last year. I could prepare myself better because I’d done it before,” she said.
For all the differences, commonalities exist for the two — the primary one being Mitchell. Mitchell, who competed in the event at Abilene Christian University, possesses a national reputation for coaching pole vaulters.
“We call ourselves pole vault heaven here,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of pride in that event. Again, that’s why we continue to have a lot of success”
For Light, participation in Mitchell’s camps led him to UA. It proved to be a pragmatic choice. A mechanical engineering major, he narrowed his choices to UA and the University of Cincinnati. The Zips had the better program.
Mitchell recruited Courteau, who cited better competition as one of the reasons for coming to the U.S. The other? Mitchell.
“I don’t know that I really know about his reputation, but I liked him as a coach,” she said.
And as they prepare to invade Jacksonville with other teammates, they will share one other thing — they expect to move on to nationals.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.