Among the many personal highs Ben Drummey has amassed in his pole vaulting career, he can add the sky-high esteem of Husky Nation.
Drummey experienced the full measure of that appreciation at a ceremony in his honor on Saturday, September 10. During halftime at a women’s soccer match, he strode out to the center of Hannaford Field in Gorham to accept his national championship ring in front of a cheering crowd.
Drummey earned the ring and the title at the 2022 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championship at Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on March 11. The field of competitors maxed out at 5.05 meters. Drummey cleared the bar on his first try, but so did his closest rival. His win was therefore decided by his superior performance at the 5-meter level.
“It definitely means a lot, especially how we went into it after pulling a hamstring two weeks before,” said Drummey, a third-year Nursing major. “I almost didn’t go at all. The fact that I came away with it really meant a lot.”
His emotions remained close to the surface at the ring presentation. Serving as master of ceremonies, Director of Athletics Al Bean recognized the family members and coaches who helped Drummey achieve his goal. Drummey hugged each of them in turn.
Perhaps no one understood his feelings in that moment better than his father. Mike Drummey is an assistant coach with the track and field program, specializing in the pole vault. As a student-athlete for Connecticut State University, the elder Drummey won the NCAA Division II indoor and outdoor pole vault championships in 1995.
It didn’t take his father long to see that Drummey had inherited the pole vaulting gene. Coach Drummey described young Ben as full of energy with a natural ability to channel that energy into the pole. High school competition drove him to develop those gifts to an elite level.
“If you push too hard, they go away from the sport. And one of the hardest things I’ve done is coach my child. Definitely the most difficult coaching experience I’ve had,” Mike Drummey said. “We butt heads sometimes but couldn’t ask for anything better, being able to follow him around and participate in his success.”
Expanding Drummey’s individual success across the entire track and field program is a goal of Head Coach Rob Whitten. The upcoming season will be their first chance to work together directly. Whitten has previously overseen the women’s side of the program. Following the resignation of men’s Head Coach David Clyburn over the summer, Whitten absorbed those duties, as well.
As a junior, Drummey provides a strong foundation upon which Whitten can build his vision for the team over the next two years, and maybe more with the potential for eligibility extensions to make up for the time that was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having individuals represent the University of Southern Maine at the highest levels and achieve such success is obviously the ultimate goal,” Whitten said. “It’s rare. It doesn’t happen all the time and that’s what makes it even more special when it does.”
Drummey is only the second member of the men’s indoor track and field team at USM to claim a national championship. The first was Jamie Ruginski with consecutive triple jump championships in 2014 and 2015.
Among his many accolades, Drummey also twice achieved NCAA Division III All-American status. The only previous indoor pole vaulter to earn that distinction for USM was Will Snyder in 2004.
President Jacqueline Edmondson personally handed Drummey the newest addition to his trophy case. His championship performance predated her tenure as president, so she made sure to watch the winning jumps on YouTube ahead of the ring ceremony.
After a few words of congratulations, Edmondson turned to Drummey and opened the box to reveal his ring. Drummey ruffled his hair sheepishly with one hand as he reached for the ring with the other. It was on his finger a moment later as applause swelled from the sideline.
As he gears up to defend his title, Drummey is dealing with some health issues that limited his participation in the most recent outdoor track and field season. He wants to first reestablish his consistency before pushing himself to new heights.
“As funny as it is to be here celebrating a national championship, it really was a year of some unfulfillment, as well. I think there’s also a sense of redemption,” Whitten said. “There’s still a lot left to prove and a lot to do. We’re excited to get healthy, get a good base of training this fall, and hopefully set up a great year.”
Health is also on Drummey’s mind in the classroom where he is working toward a Nursing degree. His commitment to his studies earned him membership on the 2022 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association All-Academic Team.