Leader Male Athlete of the Year: Burroughs High’s Matthew Schwartz perfects his high-flying act

Prior to the 2014 track and field season, Matthew Schwartz accumulated a list of goals he hoped to accomplish before his senior campaign was over.

One of those goals was an almost Herculean aspiration of breaking the Burroughs High school record in the pole vault.

“That was what I was shooting for, even though I knew it was going to be tough,” said Schwartz, who graduated in May. “Just with the history of pole vaulting at Burroughs, I knew that was something that was going to be hard to get.”

That coveted school record is a 16-feet-4 3/4-inch standard set by Finnish transfer student Esa Sallinen, who set the mark at a Foothill League meet at Birmingham High in 1994.

Schwartz was able to accomplish a great deal during a wildly successful senior season with the Indians, but he was never able to set the record. A fiercely competitive athlete who can be hard on himself, it is because of that drive that Schwartz looks back on his year and is disappointed.

“I really can’t complain, because I was able to do a lot of good things and I really did give it my best,” said Schwartz, who is headed to UC Berkeley. “But I put these high expectations on myself that really nobody else puts on me. I really wanted to set the school record and, if not that, at least get up into the 16s, and 16-6 was my real goal.

“It’s a little sad when you don’t reach your ultimate goal, but looking back, I really can’t complain.”

Rightfully so. Schwartz soared to new personal heights this past season, reaching a best of 15-9 to put him at No. 2 on the all-time Burroughs list. In addition, he won Pacific League championships in the pole vault and long jump, qualified in the pole vault for the Masters Meet and state competition, ultimately finishing seventh in California.

It is because of those efforts that Schwartz has been voted the 2014 Burbank Leader Male of the Athlete of the Year.

Working hard during the offseason to improve his vaulting skills, Schwartz was able to transition into the 2014 season under the watchful eye of his personal coach, Anthony Curran of UCLA.

“I have been so very lucky to have a lot of people supporting me during my time at Burroughs,” Schwartz said. “I know I couldn’t have accomplished what I was able to accomplish without them. From my coaches to my family to my teammates, they all made me better.”

Schwartz’ season and tenure at Burroughs culminated June 6-7 at the 96th annual CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis. In the finals, Schwartz turned in an effort of 15-6 before faulting on three attempts at 16-0 in an event won by Orange Lutheran’s Carl Johansson with a vault of 17-0.

In the preliminaries, Schwartz was able to accomplish one of his season-long goals. He soared over the bar at 15-9 for the most significant clearance of his pole vaulting life. The senior was able to accomplish the feat despite suffering from strep throat. The 15-9 effort was also significant because it was Schwartz’ personal record, besting the 15-6 he attained in April. Moreover, it put him at No. 2 on the Burroughs all-time list.

Heading into the state meet, Schwartz sat at No. 3 on the Burroughs all-time vaulting list, trailing just Sallinen and Jon Switzer, who reached 15-7 in 1976.

“Getting the second-place spot meant a lot to me,” Schwartz said. “To get No. 2 on that list is an amazing accomplishment and I feel honored to be able to be there. It’s something I worked hard to get, for sure.”

His best effort prior to the state meet came April 19 at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut. Competing in the Mt. SAC Relays, Schwartz placed first in the seeded event with an effort of 15-6. Not only was it a personal best, but it set a new seeded record in the event.

To get to state competition, Schwartz had to qualify through the CIF preliminary, finals and Masters levels. Making it to the state meet, Schwartz was the first Burroughs athlete to advance since Western Nelson in the boys’ 3,200 meters in 2009.

Prior to CIF competition, Schwartz won the Pacific League pole vault with a 15-1 effort and was first in the long jump with a 6-0 mark on his only attempt at Arcadia High.

With his high school career now behind him, Schwartz now looks forward to seeing what he will be able to accomplish at the collegiate level at Cal. He is hoping to make a seamless transition.

“It is exciting and a little scary thinking about college,” Schwartz said. “But I just want to keep improving as a vaulter. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make those big jumps in college too.”




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