“He wants to go higher,” Falcons vault Coach Ted Uhler said Monday.
Holmes brought that attitude to the school’s track team in 2010.
“Since the first day of practice my 10th grade year, I told Coach I would hit 15 feet,” Holmes said.
Uhler didn’t buy it.
“I said, ‘Yeah sure. Here comes some kid clearing 11 feet who’s going to break the school record.’
“Then, he did everything he said he’d do after that.”
The 15-foot school record, set in 1994, possessed Holmes. He “eats, sleeps and breathes” pole vaulting, Uhler said. From practice to film study, the star devoured the sport.
He first tried pole vaulting as a sixth-grader at Fork Union Military Academy in central Virginia.
“The coach introduced me to it,” Holmes said. “I think he saw my interest and I wasn’t really a body-building type; I was short and fat.”
As a sophomore at FHS, Holmes decided to give vaulting another shot.
Griping a 14-foot fiberglass pole, he sprints down a strip of asphalt.
“It can be scary. If I get on a big pole with more resistance; the higher you hold, the faster you run, the higher you jump.”
He will vault at Virginia Military Institute on partial scholarship.
Holmes plans to study psychology in Lexington.
The 18-year-old wants to continue his thrill-seeking ways after college. He dreams of flying helicopters in the Marine Corps.
“I recently found out the Marine Corps has a track team,” he said. “So that could be killer.”
Their season finished and teammates dispersed, Holmes practiced in Monday’s hot sun with friend and fellow vaulter Ryan Enos.
A fellow senior who also joined the team in 2010, Enos cleared 13-6 to place fifth at Friday’s state meet in Harrisonburg.
They kept working while Uhler joked and challenged them. When the 56-year-old assistant coach Monday announced a business trip to New Hampshire, Holmes wondered when they’d practice again.
“Without Coach Uhler, you’d just see a strip of concrete out here,” Falcons Coach Quentin Jones said. “If I didn’t have him, I wouldn’t have pole vaulting.”
Jones admitted the high-flying competition frequently makes him squeamish.
“You’ve got to be a little crazy to do it,” he said. “You get to 14 feet and you see people’s feet over their heads.
“You get off the ground and you don’t have control of your body. It’s nerve-wracking. Grant’s an athlete, and he put the foot down and didn’t let off the brakes.”
In May 4’s Falcon Track Classic, Holmes broke the 19-year-old school record of 15 feet by an inch.
After clinching the gold Friday, he went after the state record of 15-2.
Holmes asked officials to set the bar an inch above the mark.
“I was so close; it looked like my shirt knocked the bar down,” Holmes said. “I was really disappointed. But I was happy for winning, so it evened out.
“It was the most intense pole vaulting competition I’ve ever had.”
Still, Holmes insisted he didn’t get nervous before the meet. As usual, he meditated five minutes before the competition.
He thought about the state record until his final try.
“The only thing I did to mentally prepare was to think about what I’d do if I got 15 feet, 3 inches.”
His state championship satisfied Uhler, who placed fifth in the 1975 state meet for John F. Kennedy High School in Richmond.
The coach of 13 years then competed at the University of Virginia.
Holmes’ dedication, work ethic and determination resonate with his coach.
“I felt it was coming,” Uhler said of the state title. “I’m tickled to death to see him do it.”
Jones, the school’s track coach since 1999, reflected on his fifth individual state champ.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “Sometimes, you take things for granted and you look around and say, ‘Whoa, this doesn’t happen very often’.”
Holmes struggled to describe his emotions after winning the state title.
“The feeling of accomplishing my one goal I had, it’s beyond words. I was screaming on the way down.
“You have a split-second when you can scream and celebrate.”