Reckless abandon is one of Greg Fuerte’s greatest assets.

His approach on the pole vault gives the impression that the Paramus junior is a risk taker, a notion his family and coaches endorse. There is, however, a fine line between taking risks and simply being aggressive.

Fuerte has learned to straddle that line beautifully, transforming himself into one of the premier high school pole vaulters in New Jersey.

Fuerte, who cleared a career-high 14 feet last month to finish fourth at the Eastern States Championships, will participate in the prestigious Penn Relays for the first time later this week.

Although he admits to being a bit nervous heading into this nationally-recognized meet, don’t expect him to change his approach just because he’s on a grander stage.

“It’s just how I jump,” said Fuerte, 17. “I frequently make mistakes, and it’s not pretty when I do. I’ll get pushed back, [and] sometimes I don’t land on the mat or I’ll hit the standards on the way down. My coach says that when other coaches see me pull up, they cringe and cover their eyes.

“We all know each other, and I’m probably [viewed as] that kid that might break a bone today. I’m not the only one who makes mistakes in the vault, though. The event is dangerous. You have to get used to it. It’s a fear factor. Right now the coaches are more scared of me jumping than I am.”

Fuerte has been an “outdoors” type of kid all his life. He attacked climbing – whether it was a tree or the monkey bars – when he was younger, showing glimpses of the passion he someday would bring to the pole vault.

His mother, Geraldine, noticed that trait in her son at an early age and continues to see it. She knows he enjoys vaulting and puts in a great deal of work to hone his skills.

Yet she often doesn’t watch her son. She is too terrified at the prospect of him getting hurt.

“My mom told me that my coaches and other people say how fearless I am when I am vaulting,” Fuerte said. “I just want to put a disclaimer in there: I am not fearless. I like taking risks, but there’s no such thing as having no fear.”

There are such things as injuries, and Fuerte suffered a serious one late in the winter season while warming up for a meet. He got his leg caught on one of the pegs that hold the bar and came away with a large scrape on his calf.

As a result, he was “beat up and bruised,” causing him to miss the first meet of his career.

Fuerte, however, turned the injury into a positive. He watched as his teammates vaulted and realized that he had the ability to explain to them what mistakes they were making and how to correct them in a way that the coach couldn’t.

“They started to call him ‘The Pole Vault Wizard,’Ÿ” Paramus coach Kevin Graves said. “He’s been working with this one kid. Whatever I am saying isn’t translating. But he took the kid, started working with him and the kid is now popping in the air.

“We’re also getting more kids out for the pole vault because of him. He was a state [Group 3] champ in the winter. He’s doing all these great things, and he’s not an imposing guy. He’s a little guy with a huge heart and as quick as lightning. The team has grown because of him.”

Fuerte describes himself as an “art kid.” He likes to draw and spends his free time shooting and editing his own short films and commercials. So when he was forced to miss that meet because of injury, he ended up filming parts of it.

“That’s what I like about film,” he said. “It’s open. I really like the idea of being able to do what I like anywhere, anytime. Sports are like that freedom in a way. You automatically have that feeling of freedom when you’re doing what you want, and I guess the pole is like that. The pole is kind of linear.

“When you get up there and make it over the bar and slowly fall to the mat, it’s really relaxing and relieving. I guess that’s a way of describing freedom in the vault.”

Experiencing that freedom is part of negotiating the fine line between taking risks and being aggressive.






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