Travis Snyder of Saco needs to be in the top 12 in Wednesday’s East Preliminary to qualify for the NCAA Division I pole vault championship. Stephen Slade photo/UConn athletics

Two years ago they were competing against each other in SMAA outdoor track and field meets.

Now pole vaulters Travis Snyder of Saco and Ben Drummey of Biddeford are each vying for NCAA Championship honors.

And the once fairly large difference between the former high school foes and occasional summer training partners is shrinking.

University of Southern Maine freshman Ben Drummey of Biddeford is the second-ranked pole vaulter in Division III this season and will be gunning for a national title on Thursday in North Carolina. Birds Eye Media Services photo

Snyder, 21, a 2019 graduate of Thornton Academy, won the Big East Conference championship earlier this month in his first outdoor season for the University of Connecticut. On Wednesday he will compete in the NCAA Division I East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Florida. Entering as the 13th seed with a best height of 5 meters, 28 centimeters (equivalent to 17 feet, 4 inches), Snyder must finish in the top 12 to qualify for the June 9-12 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“The point of the meet is just to see who goes to the next round,” Snyder said. “The goal for me is to make the finals or come away with a new school record.” UConn’s school record is 5.45 meters.

Drummey, 19, is in a different situation. The University of Southern Maine freshman has a legitimate chance to win a Division III national championship Thursday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Drummey is seeded second with a best jump of 5.20 meters (17-0 3/4). Noah Zastrow, a junior at University of Wisconsin-Stout, is the top seed at 5.36 meters (about 17-7). The all-time D-III championship record is 5.45 meters.

“That’s always the goal, to win. I’m excited to compete with some names I’ve been watching and looking at their stats,” Drummey said. “I think if I have a good day I have the poles in my bag to compete with them.”

Some of those poles were used by his father in the 1990s. Mike Drummey is in his 18th season as USM’s pole vault coach and, at least for now, is the family record holder at 17-8 1/2, set at Southern Connecticut State.

“That’s what brought me here to USM,” said Ben Drummey. “No matter where I go, no one is going to know my jump like my dad.”

This year Drummey has topped his high school PR of 16 feet, set indoors as a senior, by nearly 13 inches. Along the way he broke USM’s record multiple times, set a Costello Fieldhouse record (previously held by Snyder), and recorded the nine best vaults in program history. He was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s New England Division III Field Athlete of the Year on Tuesday.

“Over the past four, five years, it’s been a foot improvement each year,” Mike Drummey said, adding with a laugh. “If he can do that for the next three, four years he’ll be in a great place.”

The world indoor and outdoor records, held by Mondo Duplantis, are just over 20 feet.

When they were in high school, Drummey was good but not in Snyder’s category. At the 2019 Class A state championship, Snyder set a state record of 16-9.25 inches. Drummey was second at 14-6. This past summer they trained together a few times.

“I know I’m finally at a level where I can start to compete with him,” Drummey said. “We’re only a few inches apart at this point. Even though it wasn’t much of a competition in high school, I’m slowly catching him.”

MATT BRADY OF Biddeford joins Snyder on the UConn contingent headed to Jacksonville. Brady, a senior academically with two more years of college eligibility, is seeded 47th of 48 shot putters with a personal-best throw of 17.65 meters (57 feet, 10 7/8 inches). The top 12 will advance to Eugene.

“My main goal is just to beat my seed spot and really to get a taste of the competition,” Brady said.

TWO WOMEN ON the USM team are returning to the Division III meet. Adela Kalilwa of Lewiston, a 2019 All-American in the long and triple jump, has again qualified for both events. She’s seeded 10th in the triple, and 11th in the long jump. Sophia Slovenski, a junior from Cape Neddick, is the third seed in the javelin. As a freshman at Bowdoin College, Slovenski was an All-American in the javelin.

Also competing at the Division III meet will be Bates College sophomore Elise Lambert (Amherst, New Hampshire), the fourth seed in the women’s 800; and Colby College sophomores and Thornton High grads Sabria Merrifield and Katie-Marie Roy, on the Mules’ sixth-seeded 4×100 relay team.


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