By setting the new Puerto Rican national records for both the indoor and outdoor pole vaults, LAHS alum Diamara Planell ‘11, may have booked herself a ticket to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On January 18 at the University of Washington Preview, Diamara, a UW junior, broke the Puerto Rican national indoor pole vault record with a jump of 4.25 meters. Two months later, on March 22, she vaulted 4.27 meters at the USC Trojan Invitational, breaking the Puerto Rican national outdoor pole vault record.
“When I first broke the record I just felt a sense of relief and shock because it was the first meet of the season and I went from having a personal best of 4.01 to 4.25 [meters],” Diamara said. “It was just an amazing feeling to have it all come together…To see the reward with not only a [personal record] but a record I had been chasing for almost two years now was amazing.”
These achievements mark new milestones in Diamara’s six-year pole vaulting career. Other highlights include competing for Puerto Rico at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona and winning the 2013 California State Community College title.
Though Diamara only began pole vaulting competitively during her junior year at LAHS, she had experience competing in other track and field events, including the 4×100 and 4×400 relays, 100-meter dash and 100-meter hurdles and the high and long jumps.
Over the years of training, Diamara has been working to achieve her ultimate goal: participating in the Olympics. Breaking both the Puerto Rican pole vault records got her one step closer to that goal.
“At the end of the day what makes that moment so special is everything you did, everything you went through to get there,” Diamara said. “So when I get my chance to be at something as big as the Olympics I believe that I will be as ready as I can possibly be…When the day does come I [will] be a competitor like every other athlete there.”
To officially secure a spot and attend the games, Diamara must meet the top qualifying mark set. While Diamara currently has the necessary mark, it is possible that other athletes will join her in making that mark, in which case the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee decides which three athletes will attend the games. Because Diamara was born in Puerto Rico, she has chosen to represent the country should she qualify for the Olympics.
In order to prepare for the Olympics’ high level of competition, Diamara has started an Olympic training cycle, similar to most other competitive athletes around the world.
“It is now two years before the Olympics so everyone around the world is training to meet the standards set in order to attend the games,” Diamara said. “We do this by setting out goals to accomplish by a certain date, or marks we want to hit during a certain period that make sure we are on track….Everything we do is aimed to not only succeed that year, but to build for the ultimate peak which would be the games.”
While training, Diamara places a large emphasis on her mental state, as she knows the significant impact it has on her. In keeping perspective, Diamara is able to stay mentally stable in the face of stress.
“It can get very frustrating when things don’t go as planned with marks you want to hit, or injuries…come up along the way, but you learn to take things as they come and manipulate them to benefit yourself as best you can,” Diamara said. “At the end of the day you can have all the talent in the world, the best coach, the best physical state, but if your mind isn’t up to par, if you can’t mentally keep it together and keep things in perspective, it will never add up.”
Diamara’s mental strength carries through not only in her performances in competitions, but also in practices. By focusing on making minor improvements and fine-tuning her skills, Diamara and her coach, UW’s vault and jumps coach Pat Licari, have seen true improvements in her performance at meets.
“Things will never go exactly as planned and therefore I learn to just step back and look at things, what can I do to make it better and then back to practice with my coach and teammates,” Diamara said. “Mentally, it’s just a matter of not getting frustrated and working…on just being patient and being consistent.”
As a part of her learning and improving process, Diamara takes her training one step at a time, and one meet at a time.
“In the near future my biggest focus it to do well at the level I am currently at as a Division 1 pole vaulter,” Diamara said. “Right now I am a University of Washington Husky first. We still have NCAA West Regionals and then NCAA Outdoor championships. So my focus is to prepare myself to compete at the best of my ability at those meets.”
Once the collegiate competition season is over, however, Diamara will go back to competing at the international level for Puerto Rico and prepare for the Olympics. With her improvements in performance of late, Diamara is rapidly proving herself a likely contender for Rio.
“[Setting the records] made me feel like this whole goal for 2016 was really not out of the question,” Diamara said. “It’s one thing to have people tell you that you have what it takes and another to see that you can actually do it.”