Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
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Twin sisters set for last UA vault
Arkansas pole vaulters Tori Hoggard (left) and Lexi Jacobus talk during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Twin sisters Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard began competing as track and field teammates when they were seventh-graders at Cabot Junior High South.
At the first meet, Jacobus and Hoggard did lots of events -- sprints, hurdles, relays, the long and triple jumps -- but not the pole vault.
Later in the year, a coach suggested the pole vault might be a good event for the twins, too.
"We just decided to try it out and see if we liked it and were good at it," Hoggard said. "We both had fun doing it, and at the end of the season we placed first and second at the conference meet. I think Lexi jumped 8-6 and I jumped 8-2. Pretty low, but we found that we had a knack for it, and just kept with it and here we are today."
Ten years later, the twins are University of Arkansas seniors and two of the best collegiate pole vaulters ever.
Jacobus, a four-time NCAA champion and seven-time All-American, ranks second on the all-time collegiate list indoors at 15 feet, 3 inches and fourth outdoors at 15-5 1/2.
Hoggard, a five-time All-American, ranks 14th on the all-time collegiate list indoors at 14-11 and fifth outdoors at 15-1 1/2.
The twins never finished lower than third in eight SEC meets and combined to win five conference titles -- four for Jacobus and one for Hoggard. Jacobus also made the 2016 U.S. Olympics team.
"Our last four years here have just been so phenomenal," Jacobus said. "Just such a joy and a privilege to compete as Razorbacks and to do it together. We've made so many memories in the process."
The twins will have one final meet as teammates at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, where they hope to help the No. 1-ranked Razorbacks bring home a national championship.
Women's events -- including the pole vault final -- begin Thursday.
"I don't think it'll hit us until it's actually done that this is [the twins'] last meet for us because we're so focused on nationals," said Arkansas assistant coach Bryan Compton, who coaches the vaulters. "We know it's coming, but none of us really want to think about it until it's all done. Then we'll go from there.
"It'll be kind of a sad day, and I'm sure going to miss them. But they've got to go on and do their things."
The twins, who both married two years ago, graduated with 4.0 grade-point averages with degrees in biochemistry and plan to become pharmacists.
"For the both of us, track is very important, but our schoolwork has always been right up there with it," Jacobus said. "We've put in hours and hours of studying. As twins, we have a built-in study buddy all the time."
Razorbacks Coach Lance Harter said the twins are perfect role models.
"If the NCAA wanted a picture of the ultimate student-athlete, it would be their picture," Harter said. "Because they're phenomenal students, they're great team members and great athletes.
"To find perfection is pretty rare, and both of them live up to that standard."
Jacobus said the twins, 22, plan to put off attending pharmacy school for at least a year to focus on training for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.
"We know we want to keep training and competing for one more year and see what happens," Jacobus said. "But not too long after that, because we both want to start families."
The twins have finished 1-2 at SEC meets five times -- Hoggard beat Jacobus indoors when they were sophomores -- and at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, Jacobus finished first and Hoggard second.
Despite the constant competition at high-level meets, there is no sibling rivalry. The twins always root for each other.
"I think it's a pretty cool dynamic that we have," Hoggard said. "We're competing against each other, but I think we also push each other in the competition.
"When Lexi makes a bar, it gives me that little extra push to make the same bar. There's been a lot of meets where it comes down to just us two, and I think that's where we really thrive.
"Yeah, of course we want to win, but at the same time, we're always happy for the other one if that's who comes out on top that day."
Jacobus said she gets nervous watching her sister vault.
"When I'm on the runway, of course I'm nervous, but it's in my hands," Jacobus said. "When Tori's on the runway, all I can do is watch and cheer her on. I want her to make that next bar. If it means beating me, that doesn't matter."
Both twins did gymnastics for eight years before focusing on track and field.
"You see a lot of pole vaulters come from that background because pole vaulting basically is a gymnastics move," Jacobus said. "You're throwing your body in the air, and you've got to have that awareness."
The twins have combined to score 134 points for Arkansas at SEC meets -- 70 by Jacobus and 64 by Hoggard -- and 82 at NCAA meets -- 58 by Jacobus and 24 by Hoggard.
"I know Bryan's going to get therapy," Harter said with a smile, referring to the twins ending their Arkansas careers. "All of us will be crying at the end of the NCAA meet."
Compton said he knows how fortunate he's been to coach the twins.
"For them to come in as freshmen and just start being All-Americans right off the bat and have Lexi win national championships, that's kind of unheard of, especially in a technical event like the pole vault," Compton said. "Technical events take time to grow into, but they came in ready to go.
"I'd like to take all the credit for everything they've done, but I can't. They're talented and just driven young ladies in everything they do."
The twins came to Arkansas with expectations after starring at Cabot High School, where Jacobus vaulted 14-7 1/2 and Hoggard 14-4.
"That does put a lot of pressure on you at conference and national meets," Hoggard said. "You're always expected to go out there and put up points for your team. But I think we've both been able to push through that and perform."
The twins have dealt with injuries this outdoor season, but both said they're feeling good going into the NCAA meet.
"We're excited to hopefully help win another national team title," Hoggard said. "Our goal is to put up as many points as we can."
Jacobus said she's been focusing on the season, not the end of the twins' Arkansas careers.
"It's going to be bittersweet, for sure," Jacobus said. "It's just been such a special thing that we've gotten to share."
Sports on 06/05/2019
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