Cliff-jumping, diving, gymnastics, pole vaulting — it’s safe to say Lakeville South’s Lee Bares is a thrill-seeker.
“I consider myself an adrenaline junkie, that’s for sure,” Bares said. “I’m all for those things that give me a rush.”
Bares was a gymnast for nine years until he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder, ending his competitive career in the sport. He coached gymnastics for 1.5 years before his dad came up with an idea for him: pole-vaulting.
“I was like, ‘No way, that doesn’t sound fun at all,’ ” Bares said. “After a lot of convincing and a couple practices, I fell in love with the sport. He was right, I was wrong.”
In his first season, he won the Class 2A state title. He repeated that feat last year as a junior while setting the school record at 15 feet and six inches, just nine inches below the state record. He’s the heavy favorite to go for his third title thisspring.
Adding to his high-flying antics, Bares really wanted to go cliff-jumping with his friends two years ago. His dad would allow it on one condition: He had to sign up for the Cougars’ diving team.
“And I said, ‘That’s a deal, dad,’ ” Bares said. “I shook his hand, went cliff-jumping and signed up for diving that season. I loved it right from the start.”
He’s a quick learner.
Bares’ diving helped Lakeville South to a fifth-place finish at the Class 2A state swimming and diving meet last weekend. In just his second year of diving, he finished sixth in the one-meter competition with 350.35 points off the springboard.
Cougars track and field head coach Jon Gilmer said Hares has both the mindset and skill set needed to excel at all his sports.
“Probably the biggest part is body kinesthetic — knowing what’s up and what’s down when you’re in the air and knowing where your body positions are,” Gilmer said. “He definitely has that.”
Said Bares with a laugh, “I’m more comfortable inverted than I am walking on my feet.”
But he also has an impressivework ethic and attitude. The captain also helps fill out the Cougars lineup wherever they need him. He’s done some long-jumping, high-jumping and sprinting, which will most likely continue early this spring.
Bares is sometimes harder on himself than the coaches are.
“There are times when have to tell him to back down a little bit,” Gilmer said. “That’s always a great thing to have in a coach-athlete relationship. Usually it’s the other way around.”
It’s helped him achieve his goals, including setting himself up for a bright future at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School at West Point, which he has worked toward the past five years. Bares will pole-vault for West Point next year and he also hopes to compete in the decathlon.
With an adventurous past and promising future, Bares is looking to end his high school track and field career on a high note. Two of them, actually: setting the all-time state height mark and the state meet mark. The state meet will be held June 7-8.
“I want to set the state record as high as I can. This is my last year,” Bares said. “I really want to get that thing under my name and chisel it in stone. That way I can come back a couple years from now and still see it up there.”