DiSalvo drawn to challenges

Jessica GuerrucciEditor-in-Chief

When she first began pole vaulting, Elaina DiSalvo said the nature of the sport was a challenge. Running towards a pit, pole in hand, “letting it take you,” then being freely up in the air was something totally different.

“I tried it and I fell in love,” she said. “Of course, it was hard in the beginning, but once I got the hang of it, I was like ‘wow, this is something I want to do.

Pole vaulting, an event that requires a high degree of coordination, timing and speed, can be seen as a challenge, but that is exactly what drew DiSalvo in.

With a background in dancing and gymnastics, the flexibility that came with those skills translated into DiSalvo eventually becoming a NE10 Pole Vault Conference Champion.

After finding her way from Lake Grove, N.Y. to New Haven and now in her fifth year on the team, DiSalvo, a graduate student working to receive her master’s in psychology, has become a team captain and a leader.

Michelle Grecni, who held the school record at the time, reached out to her about joining the team in 2016 and DiSalvo said she saw it as an opportunity to improve and grow.

“The biggest thing for me was the hype of Southern’s team,” DiSalvo said. “When I came for my visit, everyone was so responsive and wanted you to come there. They wanted you there.”

On the track, DiSalvo’s mindset and the way she carries herself, is something pole vaulter Maria DeSouza, a sophomore, said brings the team together.

“In practice and competition and outside of training she’s been a leader all around,” said DeSouza. “With her experience she’s been able to mentor me really well.”

With support from her team as well as the coaching staff, DiSalvo said she has improved and matured, and it has helped lead her to success.

Melissa Stoll, the head coach for women’s cross country and track and field team, said like any athlete, DiSalvo has had her ups and downs.

“I remember her sophomore year she no-heighted at the outdoor meet and that was at home,” Stoll said, “and then the following indoor season she was a conference champion.”

DiSalvo said it was standout moment in her career was when she finished first in pole vault at the 2019 Northeast 10 Conference Championships with a personal best mark of 3.47 meters.

When you’re on the track and you’re trying to achieve your goal – you’re in your head obviously, you’re nervous, you’re trying to overcome this, but just seeing my team across the track cheering for me, that was the best,” DiSalvo said.

She said one of her favorite parts of pole vaulting is having someone to do it with and look out for her. Her and DeSouza have worked together to improve and support each other.

While the male pole vaulters offer DiSalvo support on the track, she said have DeSouza is different because they can train together closely and help each other improve.

“She really dedicates herself to everything she does and it’s a great thing to look to,” DeSouza said. “It’s a great attribute she has, and I feel fortunate that I’m able to be her teammate and she’s able to be my teammate and friend inside and outside of training.”

DeSouza said DiSalvo has helped her with her competition anxiety by reminding her of all the hard work she’s put in and telling her to treat it as if it were any other jump.

Besides her 2019 NE10 Conference Champion win, DiSalvo has been named USTFCCCA Indoor All-Region East Top Performer for pole vault in 2019, a three-time USTFCCCA Indoor All-Region East Performer for pole vault in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and a three-time USTFCCCA Outdoor All-Region East Performer for pole vault in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

As a student-athlete, DiSalvo has found balance between sports and school, receiving several honor roll and academic achievement awards. This has been achieved, she said, by time management and organization.

“That’s the biggest thing,” she said. “You have to set time aside to be like ‘okay, I have to get this done’ and you have to make a plan ahead of time.”

The skills that she has learned on the track, she said, will “100 percent” play a role on how she plays in her future.

“It’s definitely changed me a lot,” DiSalvo said. “Just being on the team as a whole and having that support and that group and people to fall back on.”

Photo credit: southernctowls.com

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