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College Signing: Notre Dame state champion pole vaulter Carly Pujol signs with Louisville

After winning a Class 4 State Championship in pole vault her junior season, Cape Notre Dame track and field’s very own senior Carly Pujol had an array of colleges to choose from.

Pujol even visited the University of Arkansas, which won the Indoor National Championship this year and the Outdoor National Championship in 2016.

Ultimately, Pujol signed her national letter of intent to continue her track and field career at the University of Louisville, which she said felt like the right fit for her.

“I just really love the school and the coaches,” Pujol said. “It’s really cool to be competing at such a high level in a big conference. I really love the coach and the team.”

Dale Cowper has been the head coach for Louisville’s track and field program since 2013 and also serves as the throws coach. He has been on Louisville’s coaching staff since 2006.

In Cowper’s six years at the helm, Louisville has produced a total of 38 All-Americans. The women’s team also recorded its highest finish in the NCAA Indoor Championships at 18th overall in 2017.

Pujol first started competing in track and field her freshman year, but she didn’t really start training seriously for the sport until her sophomore year.

Pujol’s focus garnered her Class 4 All-State honors in pole vault by taking eighth place with a vault of 9 feet, 9 inches in 2017. She also won that year’s Class 4 District 1 title (10-6 vault) along with a second-place finish in the SEMO North Conference meet and fourth at sectionals.

“I just really love pole vaulting and working hard everyday and being with my teammates,” Pujol said.

This passion for the sport allowed Pujol to win her first ever state championship last season with a personal-record pole vault of 12-6. Her state vault was exactly one foot higher than her previous record of 11-6, which she used to capture a Class 4 Sectional 1 title and second place in the conference meet.

“Oh [winning a state title] was amazing — I definitely didn’t expect it,” Pujol said. “Walking into the competition, everyone expected the defending champion to win. It was just a great meet.”

Pujol also won a second-straight district championship in 2018, which she did with an 11-foot vault.

To start this season, Pujol has taken first in each of the pole vaulting events she has competed in thus far. First, she did so with a 10-6 vault at the Notre Dame Open and lastly at 11-0 at the McCullough-Douglas Invitational over the weekend.

Now that Pujol has been atop of the state championship podium, she hopes the girls team at Notre Dame can do so the same this year. She and the rest of the squad will have help from two-time triple jump state champion junior Riley Burger, who recorded the best triple jump in the nation at the Notre Dame Open with a leap of 41-3. The jump was the second best in Missouri history.

Burger also set a personal record in the long jump with an 18-9, which was the third longest in the nation at the time.

“Coach [Ryan] Long has talked a lot about how he really wants to win a state championship — that’s his goal for this year,” Pujol said. “I want to help him do that in anyway I can.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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