Knoxville pole vaulter aims higher

Mark Hollis moved to Knoxville last year to work on pole vaulting.

It's not a sport you're naturally good at.

"You know you don't just pick up a pole and jump 18 feet your first day. It's something you have to learn and it takes years."

Mark Hollis trains almost every day, whether it's lifting weights, gymnastics or practicing at Tom Black Track at the University of Tennessee.

Hollis came in fifth at the last Olympic trials.

"It was after that, that we really said, ok if I want to be really serious in this and really continue my sport and continue to go after this dream, then I need to find a coach and make a move," explained Hollis.

Mark and his wife Amanda, who is a teacher, moved to Knoxville in June of 2013. That gave Mark the chance to work with Olympic gold medalist, Tim Mack.

"Compared to a lot of other coaches where you kind of work on one thing and then jump to another thing and work on that for a while or something like that, Tim's different where we really build a base of a strong jump and just build the fundamentals," said Hollis.

His leap of faith is paying off.

"I figured he had to get in the 5 meter 80 range, which is 19 feet and he did that," said Tim Mack.

In July, Hollis competed in six meets in Europe over a two-and-a-half week period.

"If you'd ask me before, I probably would have ranked them some of my lowest," said Hollis. "To come out and jump higher than I ever have three times in a row was pretty awesome."

Mark's personal best right now is 19 feet, 7/8. The world record is around 20 feet, 2 inches.

"Right now he's in a good spot and I think he can go even higher and set himself up better for two years from now and that's what people don't realize," said Mack. "We're training to set ourselves up for the Olympic Games in two years."

"Now that I've had some success and seen what just one year being here in this environment, in Knoxville, can do, what we can do in the two years leading up to the real games," said Hollis.


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