Airman vaults to spot on U.S. Olympic Team

Air Force 1st Lt. Cale Simmons, who cleared the bar at 5.65 meters — 18 feet, 6.4 inches — in the men’s pole vault finals, secured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at the U.S. Olympic team track and field finals July 4.

Simmons finished second at the finals, just behind Army 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks, who cleared the bar at 5.91 meters, setting an Olympic trials record.

Simmons said he vaulted 5.72 meters, his best ever, in Denver last month, and that he hopes to earn a medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August if he can beat that.

Besides pole vaulting in high school in Sacramento, California, Simmons said, he vaulted at the U.S. Air Force Academy as well.

He said his current training regimen includes heavy doses of sprints, some gymnastics and weight training, as well as plyometric and isometric exercises. The Air Force, he added, provides good full-time training assistance via the World Class Athlete Program, of which he is a part.

In his off time, Simmons said, he enjoys rock climbing, skydiving and trampoline work. Although that’s not part of his WCAP training program, he said, he thinks it helps with body control and situational awareness. “I’d like to think they play a role,” he said.

Simmons’s identical twin brother, Air Force 1st Lt. Rob Simmons, is a C-17 pilot stationed at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. He and an older sister, Air Force Capt. Rachel Schaefer, stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, also are pole vaulters and Air Force Academy graduates.

Interestingly, Simmons said, although he and his siblings serve in the Air Force and are pole vaulters, they are the first in their family to participate in the sport or to serve in the Air Force. All were recruited by the academy to be pole vaulters, he added, although he’s the only one of the three who currently is doing it competitively.

“The Air Force has been great to me,” Simmons said. For his first two years, he added, he was stationed in Germany as a contracting officer. Although there wasn’t a pole-vaulting program there, he said, he had the most wonderful time of his life, seeing the sights of Europe during his off-duty time.

Fortunately, he said, the hiatus didn’t seem to hurt his pole-vaulting abilities too much, and that with some training, he snapped right back to being at the top of his game.

Serving in the Air Force, pole vaulting and being in the WCAP program is like “living the dream,” Simmons said, and he hopes that will last well beyond the Olympics.

The only thing sweeter than that would be for “my brother to fly me to Rio in his C-17 and drop me into the stadium,” he added.

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