Competing against some of the best athletes in the world is nothing new to Darren Niedermeyer, the youth sports coordinator at the Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg.
The 30-year-old Schaumburg native competes in pole vault at the national and international level, and his goal is to compete in the Olympics.
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He has competed at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic trials, and he has placed third three times at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships.
"I've competed in Japan, I've competed all over Europe, I've competed in Brazil," Niedermeyer said, "I've been to some pretty cool places."
Niedermeyer's interest in pole vaulting began his freshman year while competing in track and field at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. He placed ninth in the state finals his senior year, and his participation in the sport continued through college at the University of Wyoming and the University of Wisconsin.
For the last three years Niedermeyer has trained with Bob Cervenka of Jump High Athletic Club. On weekday mornings at the Lewis University field house in Romeoville, Niedermeyer sets up the pit and vertical supports, and after a period of stretching and warming up, he goes to work on improving his jump.
Niedermeyer has worked a variety of jobs over the years, and though he does have a degree in marketing, he has found that his position at the YMCA offers him the opportunity to use his marketing skills in a sports environment. The job also gives him the flexibility to pursue his dream of pole vaulting on the national and world stage.
"I did put off my marketing career to pursue track and field, and I really don't look back at it much, because I've really been able to pursue my passion, and see a lot of cool things," Niedermeyer said.
One program Niedermeyer runs during the afternoon at the YMCA is Sporties for Shorties, which is designed to teach young children a variety of sports, including soccer, basketball and floor hockey.
"It's great, you get little 3- to 6-year-olds running around and really enjoying sports," Niedermeyer said.
The next morning, Niedermeyer will be back at the field house, analyzing each aspect of his jumps, trying to improve.
"My goal is to compete every year. I want to compete at national championships, and make that world championship team, and every four years make that Olympic team," he said.