Some of the best athletes in Canada will hit the University of Alberta this week for the national university track and field championships, including Spencer Allen, who is taking his sport to new heights.
Pole vault requires precision and power. Athletes use a 16 foot pole, run nearly top speed and target a six inch box before launching themselves into the air.
“It’s difficult and it’s something that’s always evolving. As you fix one part and do something well it changes the rest of it so you're always adapting."
Allen is the U of A's greatest pole vaulter of all time.
"He's our Connor McDavid of pole vaulter here,” said Wes Moerman who coaches Allen. “He's put the bar up the highest. He's gone over the highest."
He’s a former national champion, who holds the school record for the highest jump.
"That’s quite an incredible feeling when you're going over, and you can see it, and you know that you're body has missed it and you've made it over. It’s quite incredible."
Allen's record jump in competition is 5.3 metres, the same height or higher than many overpasses around Edmonton.
"Just take a look next time you're driving, the height of the overpass," said Moerman.
He's a high flyer who is used to reaching new heights, but Allen kept a secret from his teammates for a long time.
"One of the neatest parts of it is how quiet he kept if for so long. His teammates didn't even know," said Moerman.
The 26-year-old is a survivor. Allen was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 17, and has beaten it, three times.
"As it went on, it became harder for myself to feel as positive about the outcome because the chances of things curing the decrease, but everyone around me stayed strong and stayed positive."
Allen says pole vaulting gave him direction, an outlet to focus his energy on, while cancer gave him a different perspective on life.
"I find myself stressing about some smaller things in life and it takes some time. I have to look at it again and think ‘Well I was in a very different place a few years ago and it kind of always reminds me to be grateful for what I have and where I'm at," Allen said.
Allen who is cancer free still has Olympic aspirations, and another goal in mind.
"When i was initially diagnosed I didn't want anything to do with cancer. I wanted to be away from everything related to cancer. Away from people who are sick. I found as I’ve moved away from that time in my life that that's changed a little bit and I find myself wanting to give back and I want to be able to help people."
Allen says he'll keep pushing the limits while continuing to set the bar high.