Athletics readiness: Northwestern’s Benesch is ‘like a cat in the air’ – Reuters Sports News
MAPLE – It all started with a boy doing something his parents probably wouldn’t like.
Northwestern’s Camren Benesch said he was around 10 when he started taking serious risks on his family’s trampoline.
“I would drag my trampoline around the yard and jump off the roof of my house onto it, then do a flip once I hit it,” Benesch said. “I’m not too afraid to be in the air. I’ll jump off anything – rope swings, anything.
Benesch’s parents, April and Chad Benesch, knew their son wasn’t afraid of much, so much so that Chad cut tree branches near the house so he couldn’t climb onto the roof and more. Even that didn’t stop him, and he found other ways to scratch his airborne itch.
“We used to have a swing attached to a really tall branch and it dragged the trampoline underneath,” April said. “It was probably a good 20-foot drop that he would let himself go. He was always fearless.
That fearless nature is useful to Benesch as a pole vaulter for the Tigers. The senior already has a 14ft jump and he is closing in on Bruce Nelson’s school record of 14ft, 9 ¾ inches which has stood since 1982.
Benesch said Nelson had to push him a bit to try out the event, but once he did, he knew he had found the sport for him.
“I really liked it and that’s why I really pursued it,” Benesch said. “I like all the aspects. It’s really dangerous, it’s fun when you start doing well. It’s really something that I found interesting.
Nelson, a 1982 state champion, was a four-time All-American in vault for Wisconsin-La Crosse and is now the Northwest’s pole vault coach. Nelson said Benesch is a “one-of-a-kind pole vaulter” and captivated the crowd when he reached 14 feet at Rice Lake.
“You just don’t get kids like that every year,” Nelson said. “And my God, is he a bundle of energy. He’s so much fun to be around and the crowd loves him. We were at the Rice Lake meet, when he went to 13’9, the meet basically stopped to watch him.
The Rice Lake encounter came when Benesch passed 14 feet and Nelson believes he can reach 15 feet before the end of the season, which would make him one of the best jumpers in Wisconsin.
Normally a jump of 14 feet would be competitive at the state level, but this year there are two pole vaulters in Wisconsin who have already exceeded 15 feet this season, so Benesch has a bit of work to do.
Nelson believes Benesch’s time as a football player and wrestler at Northwestern helped him develop the strength to be an outstanding pole vaulter, but perhaps it’s those trampoline stunts that set him apart.
“Cam grew up on a trampoline, so he’s like a cat in the air,” Nelson said. “He has incredible kinesthetic awareness in the air…He knows where he is in the air and he knows how to get his hips back.” Nelson said Benesch is also extremely coachable and instinctively understands what Nelson is trying to get him to do in the air.
April said she was still “nervous” watching Benesch’s jump, but she and her husband tried to help their son fall without injury, which was successful. Benesch never broke a bone and despite a few “bumps”, according to April, it never caused a trip to the ER.
“We always had the philosophy with Camren that we taught him to fall appropriately because there was no way we were always going to look,” April said. “The saying we’ve always had here is ‘You have to learn how to fall’ because it’s important.”
Benesch’s goal this season is to make it to the state meet after retiring to Sections in 2021 and, perhaps just as importantly, he wants that school record. Even if he doesn’t understand, he’s going to have fun.
“I want to dig the school record and I want to be the best pole vaulter ever out of Northwestern,” he said. “That’s what I would like to do. If not, I’m happy, but I’m working really hard for it and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen.