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West Valley City Journal

Pole vaulting community cheers state record break

May 30, 2019 04:36PM ● By Greg James

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

Hunter won its first ever girls region track championship in a season where longtime state records have fallen including the boys pole vault record that has stood since 1995.

Robbie Walker, from Riverton High School, cleared 16 feet 3 inches to break the record, a culmination of hard work and the help from trainers.

“Robbie has trained with us for several years,” Utah Pole Vault Academy director and Bingham High assistant track coach Kody Pierce said. “He is a good athlete. We say he has great hops. He is a hard worker. He committed himself and had the state record in mind for a couple of years. I feel like there is a place for anyone to come and learn this event.”

Walker jumped over 15 feet last season as a junior. His teammate Trent James went higher than him and offered some good healthy competition and encouragement.

“I think he saw what he could do, knew he had this year to train to reach the state record. He has worked his butt off,” Pierce said.

Pole vault has only been a track scoring event for girls and boys in smaller classifications for five years. Some schools did not even own the equipment until recently. 

“I was in the same boat as most of these kids,” Pierce said of his high school track days. “I recruited a buddy to help and have figured it out. Since then I have traveled all over the country and have learned to be a better coach. The pole vault world is pretty tight knit. We help each other and want to see the sport grow.”

Pole vault technique and training can be very specific.

“It can be a fun sport that you can come and do just in the spring season, but to be like a Robbie Walker you need to put in the time. They are the ones that get the higher marks. We have athletes of all skills and ages,” Pierce said. “Gymnasts make great jumpers, speed strength and agility are important. A good pole vaulter will be one of the best athletes on the track. He may not be the fastest, but one of. They need to be strong and jump well.”

As Walker’s arms cleared the bar the cheers erupted.

“This is a pole vault community. There are no boundaries. They love the pole vault and love other pole vaulters. It doesn’t matter what school you are from. Him breaking the record was cool. A good high school vaulter is somewhere in the 14-foot range. Robbie is an exception,” Pierce said.

Brittany Kuhn, from Hunter, won the Region 2 100m and 300m hurdles. Senior Ola Lapuaho finished first in the discus and long jump.

Cyprus’ Vaeaega Gasu has posted a top 10 time in the boys 100m this season. His 11.05 is close to a state record. Jaren Kamakana finished on top in the region discus and javelin.

The state track finals are scheduled to be held May 16-18 at BYU (after press deadline).

The Pole Vault Association is open year round and encourages youth to participate. Its indoor facility in Riverton even hosted a pole vault event this spring when the weather rained out a weekend track meet.

“We have 40 to 50 kids that participate with us regularly. It depends on the time of year. We have several schools that do not have a pole vault coach. We want to help all the kids that need it,” Pierce said.