BLACKSBURG — Deakin Volz is a standout pole vaulter for Virginia Tech, but he has higher aspirations.
He wants to become an Olympian.
Like his dad.
Dave Volz won the 1981 NCAA outdoor pole vault title while at Indiana, and broke the American record a year later. He finished fifth in the event while competing for the United States at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Dave’s oldest son and middle son became pole vaulters. Naturally, youngest son Deakin gravitated to the event as well.
“It’s kind of a family thing for me,” Deakin said.
Deakin is a three-time ACC champ and a three-time first-team All-American. The Tech senior will conclude his college career this week at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships.
Next year, he hopes to make the U.S. Olympic team.
“Ever since I first started pole vaulting, that’s been one my two main goals,” he said. “The other one being to jump higher than my dad did back in the day.”
Has he achieved that latter goal?
“Not yet,” he said. “Not yet.”
‘Pretty much fearless’
Deakin Arthur Volz, who is from Bloomington, Indiana, has the same initials as his paternal grandfather, father and brothers.
“We were running out of ‘D’ names for first names,” Dave Volz said. “Marci, my wife, liked the name Deakin.”
As he watched his father coach his two brothers in the pole vault when they were in high school, Deakin knew he wanted to learn the event as well.
“When I was … hanging around them, I just naturally fell into it,” he said. “It was like a bonding thing for us.”
Volz’s father began coaching him the summer after his eighth grade year.
“It’s just one of those things that came fairly natural to him,” said Dave Volz, who once cleared 19 feet, 1 inch at an indoor meet. “You could explain something, show it to him one time, and he was able to figure it out pretty quickly.
“He’s pretty much fearless. That goes a long way, [if] … you’re not worried about getting hurt. … Pole vault’s a dangerous event.”
Deakin fell in love with the event.
“I’m always seeking out a challenge and this is absolutely the hardest thing I could find,” he said. “It is incredibly challenging day in and day out. You basically have to commit almost your whole life to it if you want to get good. So it’s perfect for me.”
When Tech pole vault coach Bob Phillips was a Hokies pole vaulter himself, he was a college rival of Volz’s father. When Deakin was a high school junior, Dave Volz and Phillips were reunited at a college meet where Dave’s middle son was competing.
Phillips was already aware of Deakin, but he assumed Deakin was bound for Indiana. Dave Volz told Phillips that was not the case.
Deakin was impressed with Phillips’ decades of success as Tech’s pole vault coach. Deakin signed with Tech in the fall of his senior year of high school, reaping a partial scholarship offer that has since been upgraded to a full grant.
He wound up breaking the U.S. high school indoor record and winning the high school indoor national championship.
“His dad was a very strong athlete,” Phillips said. “Deakin takes after him.”
‘Total body fitness’
Volz made an instant impact as a Tech freshman, finishing third at the 2016 NCAA indoor championships. That summer, he won gold at the under-20 world outdoor championships in Poland with a vault of 18 feet, 6 ½ inches.
“The way that he attacks the pole right at the takeoff, he’s got one of the better plants I think in the world,” Phillips said. “[It’s] the ability to have a really strong plant in terms of pushing the pole up but still keep your shoulders loose enough to stretch back.”
As a sophomore, Volz broke the Tech and ACC indoor records with a vault of 18-6 ¾.
The 6-foot, 174-pound Volz said the event requires “total body fitness.”
“You have to be fast. You have to … [have a] strong core. You have to have good arms,” he said.
Last year, Volz won gold at the ACC indoor event.
He then took third at the NCAA indoor championships, helping Tech finish fourth in the men’s team standings. He was one of just five Hokies who scored points for the Tech men.
It was the first time Tech got to bring home a team trophy from the NCAAs; those trophies are only awarded to the top four squads.
“That was a really cool moment,” Volz said. “A lot of times, track is an individual sport. … But in the collegiate system, every now and then there’s a couple meets a year where the whole team comes together … to work towards a common goal.”
Volz finished seventh at the NCAA outdoor championships last year, earning first-team All-America honors for the third time.
“Technically, my vault’s come a long way — more so than it would have without my dad or without Bob,” he said.
Volz swept the pole vault titles at the ACC indoor and outdoor championships this year. The Tech men tied Florida State for the indoor team title and won the outdoor team title outright.
The NCAA outdoor championships will be held Wednesday through Saturday in Austin, Texas.
The heavy favorite in the men’s pole vault is LSU freshman Mondo Duplantis, who broke the American record last summer and added the NCAA indoor and outdoor records to his collection this year. His vault of 19-8 ¼ at the SEC outdoor meet is the best in the world so far this year.
Volz is looking forward to the meet.
“I love competing,” he said. “I have a real passion for it.”
Volz, a human development major, plans to complete work on his Tech degree this summer. But that does not mean he will be leaving Blacksburg — or quitting his bartending job.
With the U.S. Olympic trials looming next year, Volz plans to become a Hokies volunteer assistant coach so he can continue to train at Tech.
A top-three finish at the trials will be needed to make the 2020 Olympic team. Phillips said Volz has a shot to do it next year but that making the 2024 Olympics might be a more realistic goal.
Either year would be fine by Volz.
“My dream has always been to make an Olympic team,” Volz said.