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Wotus came full-circle in pole vault

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, May 30, 2002

When Ryan Wotus was a freshman, he came down awkwardly on a pole vault on his final jump one day at practice.

The next day he was in pain, but tried to jump anyway.

It turned out to be his final jump that season.

"I was hobbling around, as I ran down the (run-up)," said Wotus, a senior at Baldwin. "Then, I realized I had broken my leg. It hurt a little after the first day, but I didn't think it was broken. I was surprised when doctors told me that."

The break kept him from finishing out the season, but he didn't allow it to keep him from pole vaulting again. Wotus said he wasn't scared to get back into pole vaulting and ended up coming back strong. He competed the next three seasons. Wotus capped off his high school pole vaulting career with a sixth-place finish in the event in the PIAA Class AAA championships with a jump of 14 feet Saturday. He said pole vaulting requires upper body strength and speed. Technique is key too.

"I like pole vaulting because it looked like fun the first time I watched my brother do it," Wotus said. "Then, I tried it and really liked it. It is a pretty cool sport."

Pole vaulting is not the only sport for Wotus. He also was second team all-conference in football as a kicker and first team all-section in soccer for the Fighting Highlanders. Wotus was in position to make a game-winning field goal in two games — one this past season and one last year. He made both. Baldwin football coach Don Yannessa asked Wotus if he wanted to kick, so he decided to try it. It worked out for Wotus and the Fighting Highlanders.

"I wasn't really nervous when the game was on the line and I had to make a field goal," Wotus said. "That is what a kicker is supposed to do. We need to come through for our team. The team is counting on you."

Wotus also has come through off the field. He has a 3.6 grade-point average. Because of his athletic and academic accomplishments, Wotus was honored at the 28th annual YMCA Tribune-Review Scholar Athlete Banquet on Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel. He will attend Duquesne in the fall and plans to play football and pole vault. He was one of 143 student-athletes recognized at the dinner.

Dr. Freddie Fu, chairman and professor of the department of orthopedic surgery for UPMC Health System, received the YMCA Person of the Year Award. Pitt men's basketball coach Ben Howland was honored as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review City of Champions Award winner. Guest speakers included Steelers coach Bill Cowher, Swin Cash, a McKeesport graduate who plays for the Detroit Shock of the WNBA, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Two-time Olympian Suzie McConnell Serio also attended.

Monessen senior Ricky Tyburski received the Frank Fuhrer Outstanding Performance Award. The honor is given to a senior who has shown exceptional fortitude and courage in overcoming physical adversity.

"The YMCA banquet is such a prestigious event," Wotus said. "It is nice to be recognized for doing well in both academics and athletics. It takes a lot of time management to make sure you do well in both. It also helps prepare for the future."

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