May 12, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 17

Megan Mara

Extra Credit

No teammates have pushed each other to greater heights at the Heights than Saki Sugano '05 (left) and Megan Mara '05.

The two have set the bar in women's pole vaulting at Boston College, writing and re-writing the school record book in the event in their four years together on the Eagles track team.

Outdoors, Sugano, of Bellevue, Wash., holds the school mark with a vault of 12'07.50" this spring, while Mara, of Avon, Conn., is second with a 12'00.00" performance in 2003.

Indoors, Mara holds the top mark, 12'01.68", set in 2004, and both are tied for second with matching vaults of 11'11.75" that season.

"We go back and forth," Mara said. "We go into each meet hoping to break a school record. We've done it countless times in our four years here."

Sugano said, "A lot of times we've been tied. As coaches say, you're only as good as your competitor."

"I wouldn't be at this height if not for her," said Mara, a math and economics major who plans to seek a job in finance. Likewise, agreed Sugano.

Saki Sugano

In a recent interview, the two tended to finish each other's sentences. They noted they often perform in sync at meets - both either will do well, or not. "We're like partners," said Sugano.

How high can they go? Both say they'd like to reach 13 feet, which would be three feet shy of the women's world record.

They'll have several more opportunities this outdoor season. Sugano was seeded second and Mara fourth heading into the Big East championships at Rutgers this past weekend [Sugano finished third and Mara finished sixth behind teammate Carolyn Rayburn Hwang '08]. Next up is the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference meet at Princeton this coming weekend, and the NCAA eastern regionals in New York City the week after graduation.

Sugano, who majored in political science and economics, will take a job in Tokyo selling and trading stocks for Lehman Bros. Raised in the US after moving to Washington State at the age of seven with her architect father and interior designer mother, she remains a Japanese citizen.

The fervor of the trading floor, she said, with a smile, will be "the closest thing I can get to pole vaulting."

Mara and Sugano are former competitive gymnasts who took up pole vaulting in high school. "With a gymnastics background, it's easy to chuck yourself into the air," said Mara.

Technique and speed are paramount in the event. "Speed's most important, for sure," said Mara. "There's a mathematical equation, though I couldn't recite it for you."

How dangerous is the sport? "I broke my foot in high school, the day before the New Englands, but I competed anyway, and did pretty well, coming in third," recalled Mara, a former New England prep school champion at Loomis Chaffee. "Gymnastics gives you more tolerance for the pain."

This year she is recuperating from knee surgery, she said, while Sugano has received cortisone shots in the shoulder. "Kiki and I are always injured," Mara said, referring to Sugano by her nickname.

So what's the appeal of track and field's version of extreme sports?

"I love heights," said Mara, who hopes to take up hang-gliding some day. "When you're upside down, chucked into the air - there is no greater thrill that to fly through the air and fall into the pit. It's a one of a kind sport. My mom won't watch it."

Sugano said: "We do it because of the thrill. I couldn't ever do a sport that was boring."

"We're not golfers," Mara interjected.

Sugano continued: "Running full speed with a stick, going upside down - you're doing everything you're not supposed to do. But it's more dangerous if you're scared: If you're not going 100 percent down the runway, you might not make it to the pit."

"If you don't go all out," said Mara, "you're cooked."

-Mark Sullivan

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