SEGUIN — Chad Wieland isn’t the ideal pole vaulter.

He has no background in gymnastics and he seems anything but intense, with a happy-go-lucky grin and shaggy blond hair.

At 14, he’s not particularly tall for his age and hasn’t yet developed an athlete’s muscular physique.

“He’s not very big or tall, he’s still kinda thin and gangly,” Kris Allison, head coach at Lone Star Pole Vault, said with a chuckle. “He looks like he’d be a long-distance runner.”

But Chad had plans that took him far above the track. Because he fell in love with pole vaulting at first leap.

“In seventh-grade in track, the coach asked us to try out multiple track and field events,” he said. “I tried the high jump and pole vault and I knew my first jump over that this is what I wanted to do.”

About two years after Chad’s first jump, he’s headed to two national-level competitions. He’s landed in first place at a regional meet in Lubbock earlier this month and is now headed to the Junior Olympics through USA Track and Field on July 25 in Baltimore and then to the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympics competition in Humble next month. In both competitions, he’ll be facing off against other athletes in his age group.

For Chad, flying above the ground is nothing but fun.

“I just love being able to get my body upside down that high in the air,” he said, smiling widely.

His parents, Erik and Rebecca Wieland, were a little less enthusiastic.

“We were scared. When he told us this is what he wanted to do, we had him start working with a private coach because we were so concerned about the safety factor,” Erik said. “I ran track in high school, but I told him, ‘I can’t help you out with this.’”

They enrolled Chad at Lone Star Pole Vault in New Braunfels, where coaches say he defied expectations.

“He doesn’t fit your stereotype of a pole vaulter,” Allison said. “He’s probably the longest shot you would pick.”

Though not a natural at the sport, Allison said Chad has impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and dedication.

“He’s made it this far on the virtues of hard work and perfectionism,” he said. “For a kid his age and size to be jumping 11 feet is amazing.”

It hasn’t always been a smooth road, and Allison said that Chad had been stuck at a plateau several months back, unable to pass the 8-foot mark.

“His dad called and asked if we should keep going, at this point, if I thought it was worth it,” Allison recalled. “I said, it’s such a transitional age, let’s just give him a little more time.”

Allison said Chad blossomed and went on to have a dominant year competing for Navarro Middle School and then, this summer, qualified for the two national championships.

“You couldn’t tell a year ago that he was going to go on to compete like this,” he said.

Chad agreed that, while pole vaulting didn’t come easily, it’s something he truly loves. He does make time for school, swimming, hanging out with friends and spending time with his parents and sister, Brooke. However, Chad’s practice routine also takes up 11 or 12 hours of his week.

“I really had to push myself to get where I’m at,” he said. “But it’s really fun for me, it’s something I enjoy doing.”

Allison said Chad’s positive attitude and self-motivation have made him a joy to work with.

“We love Chad because, no matter what, he’s got a smile on his face — good jump, bad jump, good day or bad day,” he said. “He’s laid back and takes it all in stride. He just grinds it out until he jumps better and better.”

Looking ahead to the national competition, Chad said he plans to relax and stay focused.

“It’s going to be tough, some kids are jumping higher and I’m going to have to get right up there with them and get better,” he said. “I do get nervous, but I just tell myself I can do it, go out and have fun and compete the best I can.”

Chad said he isn’t motivated by competitions or titles. He just keeps competing against himself to get better and better.

“I have a goal of a two-foot improvement every year,” he said.

For others who dream of a Junior Olympic moment, the freshman says, success is all about practice and hard work.

“I think if you want to do something, you should just go out and work for it,” he said. “Just try to be the best you can be.”

by: Jessica Limmer


Chad Wieland
Chad Wieland

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