But there’s one place Walker’s expertise failed to claim a record: his hometown field, University High.
“He was tall, lanky and dorky and he never looked like he was ever going to be a pole vaulter,” University High Pole Vaulting coach Reg Hulbert said with a laugh.
The year was 1994, Walker volunteered for pole vault in the seventh grade at Horizon Junior High and that’s where Hulbert first noticed Walker. From there, Walker and a friend, Jeff Wineinger, would come over and practice at the pole vaulting pit in Hulbert’s backyard.
By 1995, Walker was training under Hulbert’s tutelage in U-Hi Track and Field program. That’s where Walker’s Olympic dreams truly began, even if his coach didn’t believe it back then
“He was too smart to be a pole vaulter. We like our pole vaulters to be kind of stupid cause they have to be crazy, you know?” Hulbert said between laughs.
Indeed, pole vaulting requires a certain breed: heart-pounding, pole-bending, gravity-defying risk-takers.
But Hulbert said Walker “Was like 4.0 student and I told him numerous times ‘Brad, you need to go be a distance runner. You’re too smart to be a pole vaulter.”
But Walker was not short on courage or confidence. He spent years training with Hulbert. Jump after jump after jump.
“He was a slow picker-upper,” Hulbert continued. “He started out at 10-6, which is good for a freshman. Then he finally got to 14-0.”
Hulbert said Walker struggled to clear a better height until his senior year.
“Then one day, I finally broke into his head and I convinced him ‘You’ve got to take your eye off the crossbar and let yourself go up.’ And he did,” Hulbert said.
As a prep star he led University High to consecutive state track and field championships in 1998 and 1999. He was 1999 regional and district pole vault champion and finished second at the state meet. He also lettered in football.
Still, he never held U-Hi’s best record. That title belongs to U-Hi’s Tyson Byers who went on to pole vault at WSU and is now a business professional on the west side of the state.
But that was then.
Walker’s day at the top would soon come. Hulbert believes Walker came into his own as a pole vaulter during his time at the University of Washington.
“Brad did not like to lose, I’ll you that,” Hulbert said.
In 2008, at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, OR, Walker became the American record-holder when he cleared 19-9 3/4.
Impressive, to say the least.
That jump earned him a ticket to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But his dreams were dashed when he didn’t qualify. Now, in London, Walker’s vowed to come home with the gold.
“He is very, very ready to go, and he’s very focused, and only wants one color of medal,” Hulbert said. “There’s no doubt in my mind or his mind that that’s what he’s going to come home with.”
It’s no high school record but an Olympic medal is in a class of its own and if Walker brings one home, it will be the first in U-Hi’s history.
Now that’s a record that, his coach is proud to say, will go down in U-Hi’s history books.
“It’s very, very rewarding,” he continued. “You can’t believe how exciting it is. It’s better than competing myself. That’s how exciting it is to have an athlete that does well.”
Hulbert said he is heading to London to cheer Walker on at the Olympics.
The Men’s Pole Vault Qualifying rounds begin Wednesday, August 8 and the Finals begin Friday, August 10.