General of the Week: Shep Sims, ‘20

Shep Sims, ’20, from Charleston, W.Va., has started off his freshman season with a bang. After setting the record for pole vault at his high school his senior year, Sims has managed to achieve similar success at the collegiate level. At the 2017 Art and Linda Maillet UNC Open last Saturday, Sims took first place in the pole vault with a vault of 14 feet 5 inches. The Phi sat down with Sims to discuss his early success on W&L’s track and field team and what he does when he is not competing.

Ben Soullier

Phi: Congratulations on winning the pole vault at the UNC Open. Can you talk about what contributed to your success this weekend?

SS: The pole vault is very technically event based which, I believe, relies more on one’s mental preparedness than anything else. At UNC, the atmosphere was very professional, with even an Olympian competing alongside some of our runners. Seeing people like that training in the same facility during the meet helped me focus well and really get into the right mindset.

Phi: Can you talk a little bit about the team’s performance at the open as a whole? What was the team’s morale like after the Meet?

SS: The men’s team as a whole did really well. The men’s team took six top eight finishes, including incredibly taking first, second and third in pole vault. Considering this was our first major meet, and we didn’t race any of our distance runners, who have tons of top finishes every meet, those results are extremely impressive. They were even more impressive considering we were just coming off winter break. The women’s team did just as well, with nine in the top eight finishes in their respective events. It was a really great meet all around, and you could tell afterward that everyone was satisfied with their results and are looking forward to the rest of the season.

Phi: As an individual, what do you still wish to accomplish with the rest of this season? What kind of personal goals do you wish to achieve not only this season but over your career as well? What are the team’s goals for the rest of the season?

SS: Right now, I am hoping that I can hit 15 feet 6 inches. by the end of this season, but that could change as the season goes on. You can never tell at the beginning of a season how the whole time will go. By the end of my track career, I hope to compete at Nationals and hopefully have a top 10 finish. As far as team goals go, I am completely certain that everyone on the team is working toward, and dedicated to, winning the ODACs for the first time in a while for the Generals, and I know we have the potential to make that happen.

Phi: Can you give me an idea of what your practice and pre-meet routines are like?

SS: The practices are usually on a weekly rotation, occasionally changing a little bit here or there based on the weather. On Mondays for the vaulters, we do short approach jumps, working more on the mechanical aspects of the jump rather than tiring ourselves out on full approaches. Tuesday is a regeneration day for most of us… Wednesday is another jumping day, this time from full 6 step runs. On Thursday, we all do different things, tempo runs for most of the team, then Friday is a pre-meet where we just warm up and get ready to be fast the next day.

Phi: What is life like for you off of the track? Do you have any hobbies?

SS: Life off the track is pretty similar to most W&L students from what I’ve seen: mostly just lots of school work, hanging out in the dorm, eating too much at D-Hall, etc. Most of my favorite hobbies are pretty strictly limited to summer time, like cliff jumping and wakeboarding. Earlier this year, I took up playing rugby for the Screaming Minks. Though I’m no longer playing because of the risk of injury for track, I love the sport and I’d consider it one of my favorite things I’ve done at Washington and Lee so far.