Freshman pole vaulter Jake Blankenship describes himself as hard-working and dedicated, and those qualities are reflected in his level of competition.
As a freshman on the Tennessee Track and Field Team, he has won his event in three of four meets, tied a record set in 1993 and has been honored as the most recent SEC co-freshman of the week.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Blankenship played football and baseball until he took up pole vaulting at Gahanna Lincoln High School.
He decided to continue his career as a Volunteer based on the quality of academics in the Engineering program and the track and field coaching staff.
“Russ Johnson is such a solid coach,” Blankenship said, adding that competing for a staff that had trained Olympians also influenced his decision.
Now, in his first season, he is already making a name for himself in the vaulting world. At the 2013 Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York City, Blankenship won the championship division of the men’s pole vault with a jump of 18 feet, ½ inch, four inches better than his previous career best.
This jump also tied the Tennessee freshman record originally set by Olympic silver-medalist Lawrence Johnson in 1993.
With success, however, comes more pressure to succeed.
“I’m happy the training paid off,” Blankenship said. “I really try not to let the pressure build up. It changes day to day, but an athlete has to recover from a bad meet.”
Blankenship has a crowd of supporters ready to help him through the tough times and he credits his family for supporting him the most. His grandfather, also a pole vaulter, has been a special source of inspiration for Blankenship.
“He’s always come to my meets and he is always there to back me up,” Blankenship said of his grandfather, who even helped train him throughout his high school athletic career.
“My team supports me,” he said. “Because you don’t always have a perfect meet, but they are there for you.”
Blankenship has already made a great impression on team and his coaches.
“Tying any record at UT is quite special because our history is very rich and we have had many great athletes come through here in the past,” J.J. Clark, track and field head coach, said. “But Jake tying Lawrence Johnson’s record is even more significant because of what he came to be at UT and worldwide.”
Blankenship said he would being an Olympian like Johnson would be one of his aspirations.
“If I could follow in (Johnson’s) track that would be amazing.”
For now, however, he plans to just work hard and give his best at every opportunity.
“I’m trying to live up to what (my family) have done for me,” Blankenship said, “The more work I put in, the more it will pay off.”
Jake Blankenship will next be competing at the Samford Multi and Invitational in Birmingham, Ala.