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University of Houston pole vaulter ranks top 10 in the country

Christyan Sampy, the seventh-best collegiate pole vaulter in the country, won the pole vault at the Texas Relays this year.

HOUSTON — The seventh-best collegiate pole vaulter in the country is a homegrown athlete from Spring Branch and one of the few African Americans in the sport. 

Christyan Sampy won the pole vault this year at the Texas Relays, clearing 18.2 feet, which also set a new University of Houston record.

Sampy loves the sport and compared the sensation he gets when he's competing to fireworks. 

“When you are practically weightless when you hit your peak, and you get to fall for a couple of seconds. It’s really exciting," he said. 

Being able to leap the height of a building in a single bound is not as easy as it looks. It’s a combination of speed, strength, timing and overcoming the fear factor.

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UH track coach Kyle Tellez said vaulters need the speed of a sprinter, abilities of a long jumper and aerial skills like a gymnast.

Sampy started vaulting in middle school. This is where he caught the eye of his future high school coach, Joshua Gossett. 

Gossett alerted Sampy’s future college coach, Tellez, who said, “I went out and saw him in middle school and I'm like, ‘Keep him going. I’m gonna recruit that guy.’” 

Five years later, he did.

Sampy's mom Andreya said she believes she's a big part of his success. 

“I think I’ve been present. I didn't miss much, and I didn't tell him no.” She adds, “That is why he did so well. He liked it. It brought him authentic joy.” 

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Sampy and his family are deeply grounded in faith and said he understands that he was blessed with his skills and learned to work hard and never give up. He said his mom helped him with the mental side of athletics while his dad, who was a former Baylor football player, blessed him with the physical part.

Through high school, Sampy played football too but chose the vault for college. 

Sampy plans to continue to practice and compete with the hopes of making it to the Olympics. 

Sampy is an academic junior, but in terms of athletic eligibility, he is considered a sophomore because of the impact of the COVID pandemic. 

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