Athlete of the year: Jordan Pacheco had a tough decision to make.
He could either continue to be part of the fencing team at Morris Hills, where he was named the captain for his senior season, or pursue his passion for the pole vault.
“I first considered giving up fencing my junior year, but I felt very committed to the fencing team,’’ Pacheco said. “Coach (Sean) Robinson had been talking with me for a while about doing indoor track. When I started receiving mail from colleges, Coach Robinson wrote notes on each one encouraging me about track being my future. It was very hard because I was named captain of the fencing team for my senior year, and just like Coach Robinson, my fencing coach was very supportive as well.’’
Pacheco ultimately chose to run indoor track for the first time.
His decision turned out to be a great one.
Coming into the season with a solid personal best of 14-2½, Pacheco took pole vaulting to new heights in Morris County when he scaled his way to the greatest indoor season in the event in county history.
Pacheco’s first big moment of the season came Jan. 7 at the Morris County Relays at Drew University in Madison, where he cleared 14-10 on his first attempt to break the Morris County record of 14-9 set in 2000 by Zach Suttile of Randolph.
But there was more to come.
A few minutes later, on his final try at 15-0, Pacheco sent the crowd into a frenzy when he sailed over the bar to become the first vaulter in county history to make that height indoors.
Pacheco went on to clear 15-0 three more times during the season. He did it to win the Metropolitan Invitational in New York, at the state Group 2 meet when he finished second, and at the Eastern States Invitational when he placed third.
“My season went very well,’’ Pacheco said. “I accomplished my goal of breaking the Morris County record. The season did have its ups and downs. I learned a lot from it.’’
What was the key to Pacheco’s success that enabled him to improve by nearly 10 inches since the spring?
“My pre-season workouts made all the difference,’’ Pacheco said. “I worked on sprint drills in the fall with Coach Robinson. I also trained with my coach at Heights Unlimited, Al Berardi. Al had me work on strength training and physical conditioning in the pre-season. He also educated me on the mechanics of the vault. It’s amazing how really understanding your event can change your entire view of it.’’
The title of best indoor vaulter in Morris County was the payoff.
“It showed me the result of hard work and dedication,’’ Pacheco said.
Pacheco was part of a record-setting group of pole vaulters in New Jersey this season, when five went 15-0 or higher, the most in state history.
The four others were Craig Hunter of Robbinsville (16-1 1/4), Nick Eckett of Jackson Liberty (15-4), and Peter Fagan of Westfield and Eric Geider of Demarest, each of whom made 15-0.
“It definitely pushed me to keep working harder knowing that they were other vaulters capable of achieving this height,’’ said Pacheco, who is undecided about college. “ I really enjoy the competition. I started training with Nick Eckett this year, besides being a competitor, he’s a good friend. At meets we always give each other feedback about each other’s jumps.’’
Pacheco looks forward to going after another big goal this spring.
“My goal for the spring is to break the Morris County outdoor record of 15-7½” set by Greg Schroeder of Hanover Park in 1992, Pacheco said.