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SWT vaulter ready to take two big leapsy


www.statesman.com

First up for Pundt is the NCAA Championship meet; then comes her wedding

American-Statesman (06/11/2003)
By David Stegon

Do you, Melissa, take your pole, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for good leaps and bad, in sickness and in health, while you both shall jump?

Both of Melissa Pundt’s loves are fighting for her attention just a few weeks apart. She is juggling preparing for her wedding (which is just 17 days away, by the way) and vaulting in this weekend’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif.

Most of the major arrangements -- the flowers, the cake -- have been done, except for a few minor details that Pundt is trying to wrap up this week before this weekend’s competition that will end her collegiate career after coming to Southwest Texas State as a walk-on five years ago.

“It’s all been so nerve-wracking,” said Pundt, who will marry former SWT pole vaulter Mark Moody on June 28 in Floresville, near San Antonio. “It’s been good because competing has helped keep my mind off the wedding. I’d hate to be one of those brides who go crazy waiting for it to come.”

“This whole thing has been so exciting,” said Pundt, 23. “I could not think of a better way to end my career. It’s an honor to be jumping with all the great competition that will be there.”

Pundt, though, hopes to be able to hold her own in California.

She owns SWT’s school record in both outdoor (12 feet, 10 1/4 inches) and indoor (13-1 1/4) jumps. She also has the distinction as being the first female pole vaulter to come through the SWT program.

“At first, you could tell she didn’t like it, but eventually she began to improve and really feel in love with it,” said Bobcats track coach Golina Bukhavina, who was an assistant when Pundt first arrived on campus. “That’s when she really improved.”

Pundt hopes that this will not be her last event. Following her honeymoon in Cancun, she hopes to train and try out for the U.S. Olympic team next year. She would be only the second SWT track athlete and first woman to make an Olympic team.

“I think she’s got a shot,” pole vaulting coach Nick West said. “She hasn’t reached her potential yet. Her ability is much higher than she has been jumping and I think she can take her jumping to the next level.”

All of this from a woman who five years ago had never even touched a pole. A sprinter and a long jumper at Floresville High School, Pundt hoped her appearance at the Class 4A state track and field meet her senior year would result in a college scholarship somewhere, but it didn’t.

She then was forced to look for a school, and talked with then-SWT coach Don Hood, who introduced her to pole vaulting. The Bobcats needed a vaulter, and Hood believed Pundt’s sprinting and long jumping background would be a natural transition.

Five years later, Pundt will try to win the NCAA title, which begs the question: Who is the better pole vaulter; her or Moody, the former SWT pole vaulter and her soon-to-be husband?

“Let me put it this way: He just looked pretty when he jumped, so I’m going with him,” Pundt said.

OK, that’s an answer that will ensure some marital bliss. So Mark, how about you?

“Oh, she’s better,” Moody said. “I think she is in a higher percentage of her gender than I was, so that makes her better.”