At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, former Sweeny Bulldog Sunne Rodriguez-Weems has come a long way at Prairie View A&M.
Rodriguez-Weems, a junior at the college, recently broke his own record in the pole vault with a 16-foot 9 1/2-inch effort at the May 3-5 Southwestern Athletic Conference hosted by Prairie View.
“It was my third attempt when I jumped that and it helped me win the conference,” Rodriguez-Weems said.
The victory qualified him to the NCAA West Regional, which will be this Thursday through Saturday in Sacramento, California.
“I just kept putting in the hours on the track and studying film more than I used to,” Rodriguez-Weems said. “When I would watch film, I would concentrate on just getting my timing through the vault.”
Rodriguez-Weems will go up against the top 25 pole vaulters in the nation.
“There are some big guys from South Dakota and Texas A&M,” he said. “They are jumping in the 19s and 18s. But I am looking forward to see if I can qualify for nationals. I will probably have to PR about 6 inches.”
Things weren’t always this good for Rodriguez-Weems when it comes to pole vaulting. In fact, the first two seasons were kind of tough for him.
“I just wasn’t jumping very high and not what I wanted to jump,” he said. “For me, it could have been that year of transition to being a collegiate athlete and it took me a second to adjust. So I came in as a freshman and I had a rough year and came back as a sophomore and it was a real rough year. So this year I’ve been just concentrating on the smaller things and it helped me as I’ve had a pretty strong season this year.”
What could have also been at play was Rodriguez-Weems took on another adventure to keep him busy while at track meets.
“So I was getting bored at track meets by only jumping the pole vault,” he said. “So a coach suggested that I try being a decathlete as well.”
With 10 different events, Rodriguez-Weems competed in unfamiliar events where he had never attempted the jumps or throws.
“It was a big transition for me,” he said. “So I’ve been doing a lot more sprint and strength training which has helped my (pole) vault as well. Its been a steady progression and slowly but surely I’ve improved in that as well.”
As a freshman, Rodriguez-Weems finished second in the conference and last year as a sophomore was third overall. But this season he put it all together and won the conference in the decathlon.
“I didn’t make it to nationals because they only take the top 24 and I didn’t make the cut because I am in the 60s,” Rodriguez-Weems said.
Rodriguez-Weems will jump Thursday in Sacramento. A good start to the season in pole vault helped him continue that inertia during the indoor and outdoor season this year.
“I just needed to get in a real mindset, because I realized that if I wanted to go anywhere, I needed to get more comfortable and more confident,” he said. “The first meet was quite important to me because I didn’t finish strong last year and I needed to have a good start this year. It’s just continued from there as I kept jumping higher and higher.”
At the Texas A&M Invitational Indoor Meet back in January, Rodriguez-Weems went 15-6, which for him was a strong start.
He went on to win the 2019 SWAC Track and Field Indoor Championship at the Birmingham Crossplex back in February.
Rodriguez-Weems broke his fellow teammate Tristan Ham’s pole vault SWAC indoor meet record by clearing 16-3.