Bellevue's Rowland commits to Akron for track and field
By BRAD FRANK
Gazette Sports Editor
AKRON — With his success as a pole vaulter, Bellevue High School senior Matt Rowland was one of the most sought after vaulters in the country.
Rowland, a two-time state champion, holds the top mark in pole vault for BHS, in the Northern Ohio League, in the Northwest District and in Region 6.
Rowland, who is coached by his uncle Shawn Beamer, received letters, phone calls and emails from colleges throughout the nation, detailing their interest in Rowland joining their track and field programs.
Despite the nationwide attention, Rowland said his college choice came down to two in-state schools, the University of Akron and the University of Cincinnati.
His choice was Akron, making that official Tuesday by signing a national letter of intent. But his choice to attend Akron was virtually a done deal for quite some time.
“I’ve known Akron was going to be for a lot of years,” Rowland said. “I’ve been jumping with them since my sophomore year there. I know the coach really well. It was kind of easy.”
In his spare time, Rowland has been pole vaulting at the University of Akron and with its head coach for a couple years now. His relationship with Akron men’s track and field coach Dennis Mitchell has grown in those two years, and it was the deciding factor in Rowland’s committment.
“He’s a great coach. He’s one of the best in the nation, so (choosing Akron) was an easy pick,” Rowland said about Mitchell, a 15-time Mid-American Conference coach of the year.
Rowland calls Mitchell one of the top pole vault coaches in the country. Mitchell coached a four-time All-American pole vaulter at Akron in the mid-2000s.
Akron has won back-to-back indoor and outdoor MAC Championships, as well as the 2008 and 2009 outdoor MAC Championships.
Mitchell’s success with the Zips attracted one of the top pole vaulters in nation — Shawn Barber from Texas.
Barber, a freshmen at Akron, is rated the No. 1 pole vaulter in the country.
And so Rowland, one of the nation’s top high school vaulters, will join the best collegiate vaulter at Akron starting this fall.
Rowland said it is a dream for him and Barber to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
One of the main attractions at Akron for Rowland is a $20 million indoor track and field facility — the Stile Athletics Field House.
“It’s a very nice campus. It’s not too big of a campus,” Rowland said, before mentioning the field house. “They have great vaulting facilities and their track is the best in Ohio and probably one of the best in the nation.”
Bellevue boys track and field coach Nick Lilli shared his thoughts on Rowland’s signing with Akron.
“I know the entire school, the track program and coaches are excited about him taking the next step. The sky is the limit,” Lilli said. “I knew he was going to be a good pole vaulter, because it’s in the family line,” Lilli said. “The blood is good in the pole vault, just looking at state championships in the family.”
Rowland is the third member of his family to win a state pole vault title at Bellevue. Beamer’s children and Rowland’s cousin — Chad won two while Kelly won one.
Lilli described how Beamer and Mitchell are similar.
“They push him to do the things you’re not good at. That’s hard as an athlete. This coach [Mitchell] will bring the best out of him.”
Lilli has always felt Beamer is one of the best pole vault coaches in the country, too.
Lilli said he believes Rowland’s competitiveness is his best trait and that Rowland is not only a great pole vaulter but a great athlete.
So with his college choice out of the way, Rowland is set to begin his senior year of high school, aiming for a third straight state title and a shot at the state record.