PROSPECT PARK — Every spring, Interboro boys track coach Kirk McGrotty gives his athletes a chance to experiment. He refers to it as the time to do specialties, but for the athletes, it’s a chance to do something different.
Want to try the hurdles, jumps, throws or pole vault? Here’s your chance.
Being the adventurous type, Doug Yamamoto decided to give the pole vault a shot.
“It was just something to try,” Yamamoto said. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
Yamamoto may have been winging it when he raced down the runway that first time and thrust himself into the air, but Interboro vault coach John Miller saw enough in the talented freshman to convince Yamamoto to take up the event.
Four years later Yamamoto is the school-record holder (13 feet, 3 inches) and the top seed in the pole vault when the Delaware County Track & Field Championships resume this afternoon (2:30) at Interboro’s South Avenue Athletic Complex.
“Winning Delcos would be big,” Yamamoto said. “It’s been one of my goals for the past couple of years. I know it’s going to be tough because there are number of serious vaulters in Delaware County. Winning Delcos would be the highest achievement of my vaulting career, next to setting the school record.”
Yamamoto is no stranger to success, on the track or in the classroom. You could say it runs in the family. He is a member of the All-Delco Hi-Q team and when Interboro holds its graduation next month, Yamamoto will be the third member of his family to serve as valedictorian. His oldest brother Wes was the valedictorian in 2004. Aaron had the same honor in 2006. Brother Chris was the salutatorian in 2010.
That’s an impressive family legacy and it does not end there. In the fall, Yamamoto will follow in his brothers’ footsteps again when he enrolls at Penn to study finance at the prestigious Wharton School of Business. Wes graduated from the Wharton School and works as a consultant in Newtown Square. Chris is a junior at Penn, studying environmental science. Aaron graduated from Delaware and is a teacher at Delcastle Tech in Wilmington.
“Wes really set a precedent for high standards,” Doug said. “We all followed that and found our own niche inside those high standards and expectations.”
The family has been heavily involved in athletics, too. Wes and Chris ran cross country and track. Aaron also ran cross country, but played basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
“Running cross country was the thing in our family,” Yamamoto said. “Aaron was the best at it. I was OK, Wes and Chris were pretty good at it, but cross country is what got us into track. McGrotty, of course, tries to pick off any of the cross country runners for track to see what they can do.”
While he did the hurdles and jumps, like Wes and Chris, it was in the pole vault where Doug found his athletic niche.
“To me, it was like diving,” Yamamoto said. “I dove for three years (at the Glenolden Swim Club). There is an initial fear, but once you get over that, you don’t even think about it.”
Yamamoto learned the finer points of the pole vault from Miller and former teammate Dan Dougherty, who graduated last year. Dougherty took Yamamoto under his wing and Yamamoto began to improve at a steady pace. By the end of his junior year, Yamamoto was vaulting 12-6 and realized that the school record (13-0) was within his reach.
He equaled the mark during the indoor season and broke it with a vault of 13-1 at the Haverford Invitational earlier this season. He topped it again with a vault of 13-3 in a dual meet last week.
“It was a cool feeling when I knew I had a chance to break the school record,” Yamamoto said. “And now it’s a cool feeling to know that I might be able to break 14 feet and potentially vault for a college team. That would be one of the greatest things ever.”
He is already exploring that possibility.
“I know a couple of the pole vaulters at Penn and I’m going to talk to the coach to see if I can walk on if I work a little harder,” Yamamoto said.