AUSTIN — After he was finished jumping, Tivy junior Andrew Stieler trudged toward the stands at Mike A. Myers Stadium and greeted the members of his fan club, thanking each of them for their support on Friday.
For a meet that occurred during the middle of the day in Austin, Stieler drew a large fan base when he participated in the pole vault event at the Class 5A state meet. Many of his friends (Regan Robertson, Jared Zirkel, Trapper Pannell and Logan Green, to name a few) skipped school to watch him jump. His parents, maternal grandparents, paternal grandparents and aunt and uncle all were in attendance. His older sister, UT-Austin freshman Kathryn Stieler, even raced to the stadium after a final test in business administration to arrive in time for her brother’s first jump.
“I have good supporters and a good family,” Andrew said. “I am very appreciative of everyone coming out to support me.”
His only regret is that he didn’t give his fans a better performance. During the Region IV meet two weeks ago, Andrew hurt his back after an awkward landing. The injury continued to affect him Friday, as he finished seventh at the state meet after clearing 15 feet. He tried three times to clear 15-06.00, but his back wouldn’t quite allow him to hurdle the bar.
“It could have gone better,” Andrew said after the event. “I am a little disappointed in how it turned out. I made it here and that’s good enough.”
Indeed. After all, one disappointing day shouldn’t diminish one of the best pole vaulting seasons in school history. Andrew single-handedly elevated Tivy’s program. He raised his personal-best from 13-06.00 to 15-07.00 this season, claimed six gold medals and became the first Tivy athlete to advance to state since 2017. He also mentored underclassmen Joseph Huff and Bo Buchanon, doing his part to ensure the future success of Tivy pole vaulting.
“When you step back and put everything in perspective, you realize he had a 25-inch P.R improvement from what he did last year,” Tivy track coach Kevin Pope said. “We won district, we won area and we won region. … We don’t have anything to hang our heads about. Just the fact that we are here is impressive.”
And Andrew was impressive early in the meet. He jumped over 16 feet in warmups. When the event began, he drew cheers from Tivy fans when he cleared the 15-foot bar by at least a foot.
He almost managed to clear 15-06.00, but his elbow grazed the bar during his descent, causing it to collapse. That’s when his back began to tighten. He grimaced between jumps, stretching his back in an attempt to ease the pain. But to no avail. It just wasn’t his day.
The good news for Andrew? The top four pole vaulters on Friday were all seniors. He will have another chance to break the school record as a senior, another opportunity to win a state title.
But first, Andrew plans on resting several weeks, giving his back an opportunity to heal. After that, it’s back to work.
For the last five years, he’s toiled through all types of weather to improve as a pole vaulter. He’s not going to let one disappointing appearance halt all that progress.
“He’s there — it’s just a matter of consistency,” Pope said. “The guys you see (at state) are consistent. That’s the name of the game. … Hopefully if we are lucky enough to get another crack at it, we know what to expect. It’s a great learning experience. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”