Pole vaulting returns to track program

Former Buckeye to coach pole vault


Photo courtesy of David Garcia

On Jan. 21, 14 members of the track team met for the first pole vaulting practice of the season

Pole vaulting has returned to Oak Park High School at the beginning of the 2018-19 track season, led by newly appointed head coach David Garcia.

Pole vaulting is a track and field event in which an athlete launches over a crossbar set at various heights in the air, while aided by the use of a tall, flexible pole.

According to track and field head coach Steven White, the pole vaulting team was revamped so Oak Park High School could “field a complete track and field team and not give away points to every high school [they] compete against.”

“We had a very successful program a few years ago. Pole vault coaches are hard to find so it took a while to secure the coach we have now,” White wrote to the Talon. “I expect to bring the program back to its former glory.”

Garcia, a former volunteer coach at Ohio State University, has 30 years of experience in coaching pole vaulting. Along with Ohio State, he has also coached at the University of Toledo, University of Michigan, Ohio Wesleyan University and Otterbein University.

“You get spoiled because you’re coaching the best of the best. It’s a lot of fun to be around college athletes,” Garcia said.

He also opened a pole vaulting club where aspiring athletes could pay a membership fee, “similar to a gymnastics club.”

“He has great qualifications. He has coached for years at both the high school and collegiate level. And, he’s a super nice guy,” White wrote.

Photo courtesy of David Garcia
On Jan. 21, 14 members of the track team met for the first pole vaulting practice of the season

Garcia has coached a variety of successful pole vaulters including 2004 NCAA Division III Indoor Pole Vault Champion Chris Swanson, as well as Big Ten and Penn Relays Championships competitor Brad Darr.

“Pole vault is a really fun, challenging event that is going to make us a better overall team,” White wrote.

Garcia explained that his years of coaching have taught him “how to coach the pole vaulter, rather than how to coach pole vaulting.” He plans to put Oak Park back on the radar for pole vaulting and also hopes to upgrade pole vaulting equipment for the team since the current equipment is several years old.

On Jan. 21, Garcia met with around 14 athletes (which is, as he explained, a high number for pole vaulting) from the high school interested in learning the pole vault. According to Garcia, the enthusiasm levels of OPHS athletes are high.

“Oak Park seems to be a very special school — it’s not your average school,” Garcia said. “I understand the kids and what motivates them. They’re just good, well-rounded student-athletes.”

Sophomore Caitlyn Ackerknecht has always found pole vaulting to be interesting, explaining that she was “impressed with how athletic the pole vaulters were.” Her first practice in pole vaulting was Jan. 21.

“I’m hoping that I’ll get to the point where I meet the standard height where I can compete in the meets for [pole vaulting],” Ackerknecht said. “I want to be able to have fun with it.”