Joliet family dynasty in pole vaulting

When Luke Winder won the high school state championship for pole-vaulting this year, he rounded out a tradition that started back in 1979, when his father won the title.

All four men — Luke, his brothers Jake and Josh and father, Tim — won state championship titles through the Illinois Association of High Schools contests. And each one of those state champion titles is for pole vaulting.

“It’s certainly nothing you could orchestrate,” said Tim Winder, who also runs a summer pole-vaulting camp at North Central College in Naperville with his sons’ help. “It just happened.”

The Joliet family’s tradition started in the 1970s. Tim Winder picked up the sport from his father, who taught him some of the basics. Winder attended high school in small town in southern Illinois. Though the high school didn’t have a track pit, Winder trained at a school in a neighboring town and went on to win his championship.

The high school championship dynasty was completed this year when the youngest of the brothers, Luke, won his state championship for pole vaulting as a junior at Plainfield Central High School. He cleared 16’10” to win — a full inch above his brother, Josh, when he won the state title in 2008, and three inches higher than his oldest brother, Jake, when he won the state title in 2005. His dad cleared 14’7″ when he won the state championship in 1979.

And though Luke was aware he was the last one needing a state championship to round out the dynasty, he said he didn’t feel any pressure to win.

“I knew my parents and brothers would be proud of me no matter how I did,” the 17-year-old said. “I knew that I put enough work in to be able to say that I could’ve won it.”

Though all three brothers have become champion pole-vaulters, none of them were required to follow their father’s sport. All three played other sports and all three were allowed to make their own choice about pole vaulting.

“He never tried to force us to pole vault,” said Jake, 25.

In fact, each asked their father to coach them when they decided they wanted to pole vault. All three brothers also train together in the summer months — a typical day includes hours in the gym and then more time at the track at Plainfield Central High School — and help each other out.

“The best part about the summer is that we all get to practice together,” said Jake, who also teaches physical education at an elementary school in Oswego.

And though all three brothers have some of the physical qualities of good jumpers — long legs, speed and skill — their father said the key ingredient in their success is their faith.

“Our faith and leaning on the Word of God … I know that’s the secret,” the father said of their successes.

Tim Winder tries to instill some basic character traits into his sons — saying that it also translates into good pole vaulting. He also focuses on perfecting the process of a good jump rather than on the end outcome and winning championships.

“If we were only outcome oriented we would’ve never even won,” he said.

Jake and Josh Winder continue to participate in pole-vaulting competitions through national organizations like USA Track & Field. The two attended North Central College, and are responsible for five of the national championship titles won by the school. In pole vaulting. Luke Winder participated in his first national competition this summer and plans to continue pole-vaulting next year as a senior at Plainfield Central High School.

Though the three have won various titles, they brush off any talk when it comes to the Olympics. While the thought may have crossed their mind a time or two, it’s not their focus.

“We pole vault because it’s fun and to bring glory to God,” said Josh Winder.

Winder family
Winder family


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