Peter Chapman is a marked man. Not that the pressure is getting to the Murrieta Valley senior as he prepares for the track and field postseason as the owner of the top pole-vaulting mark in the state, a vault of 16 feet, 6 ½ inches that’s also a Riverside County record.

In fact, Chapman’s sights are set on 17 feet and a state championship, and Nighthawks coach David Munn likes his chances after a fifth-place showing in Clovis a year ago.

“He made it to the state meet, ended up fifth overall and made it on the podium as a junior going to the state meet for the first time,” Munn said. “And now he’s got the top mark in California. He’s got a lot on his shoulders, but he manages that so well. His focus is to be the best, and he’s going to be the best because he’s going to put the work in.”

That work really gets going Wednesday at the Southwestern League Finals at Great Oak High. Chapman, however, spared a few minutes of his preparation to talk with The Californian about his start in the sport, the pressures that come with owning the state’s top mark and one of his nastier spills on the runway.

Question: Your record is 16-6 ½ and you were jumping 14-ish as a sophomore. How do you add 2 feet to your heights in a matter of two years?

Answer: A lot of it is speed work and strength work. A lot of stuff on the track —- not necessarily on the runway —- and getting in the weight room, doing lifts to get stronger because that translates to speed and being able to put energy into the pole that you get out. When you have that strength and that speed there, then you can get on those bigger poles that will give you that height. But it’s also about having technique (on the bigger poles).

A lot of it over the two years is working on that strength and speed and the very fine detailing of the technique. A lot of guys you’ll see jump high, but their  technique is not necessarily great. We’ve worked at trying to get a very good technique that’s fluid and will translate easily onto other poles with more speed, and more refining of those little details will add more inches.

Q: Did you feel like you had everything working for you the day you set the Riverside County record at Arcadia?

A: Going into that day, I was feeling good. I wasn’t necessarily thinking along the lines of setting a record —- just wanted to go in and compete well and try to come out with the win. And when I got there, I jumped on my 15-foot, 180 pole, which isn’t the biggest pole I had, but was one of them. I was jumping on that and cleared 16 feet. When the other guy cleared 16 feet, I moved up to a 15-9, 180. That gave me the extra boost to get over the 16-6. … When I set the record, it was awesome.

Q: You’re a marked man now . How are you handling that?

A: It definitely puts a target on my back. I try not to think about it too much. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, man, there’s some pressure to perform here,” because everybody is watching you. They know who you are, but I get out there on the runway and it’s just me and the bar. If I go and get a really nice vault out of the day, I’m set. That’s a great day.

Q: You’ve got the record and the top mark. What’s the next goal for you?

A: Immediately when I got that, I thought I needed to do 17 feet this year —- at least once. That’s the new goal as we get ready to go into (Southwestern League) finals (this week) and then on toward state. I want to jump 17 feet. … I’m ranked No. 1 in the state right now, and I hope to take it.

Q: Who are some of the other names you watch out for in your event?

A: Kaiser Anderson is doing really well. (Oak Park’s) Connor Stark, he’s the other guy who has jumped 16-6. There’s also Ryan (Zacchilli) from Rancho Bernardo who’s doing well and Connor (Rouse) out of San Diego Vista. They are all really good. When you go to a competition, it’s, “What can this guy do today?” There’s all these variables. You’re not sure exactly what someone can do that day and it’s always interesting to find out.

Q: Pole vaulting seems like such a niche sport. How did you originally get involved?

A: My dad (Charles Chapman) used to pole vault; he’s actually our coach now. My freshman year, I was running cross country in the fall and two weeks into the spring season I asked if I could try pole vaulting instead of running a recovery run that day. … I did some training until my dad came on and found out I was picking it up pretty quickly.

My third day of practice, I came out and cleared a 9-foot bar. It went from there. … Also, I had watched this documentary that said it’s the most rebellious sport. It’s everything your mom has told you not to do —- running with a stick, jumping really high and falling from big heights.

Q: Ever get scary up there?

A: It’s sometimes scary. For the most part, it’s really about turning that switch off in your brain. Otherwise, you won’t plant the pole. If you’re scare a bit, that’s when things go really wrong. I try not to think about the scary parts.

Q: When’s the last time something went really wrong for you out there?

A: Trying to get on the 15-9 poles for the very first time. You take out a foot farther than normal, it’s a longer vault and you have to be doing more things right. I wasn’t getting off the ground in the correct manner and I came up short and the energy didn’t get transferred. So the pole didn’t get into the pit area and I ended up coming back and landing from pretty high straight onto the runway. That really hurt my knees. But the next day I was fine.

Q: You sound like quite a junkie for this sport. What is it that’s so appealing to you?

A: Oh, man. It’s great. We come out here and everybody goes through the same thing. You always have the same experiences, because when you’re trying to get on those bigger poles, it’s like, “Oh yeah —- been there, done that.” You’re going to have some hard times. Everybody has them to the point where it’s like, “This sport sucks.” … Then you come out the next day and have an amazing day.

There’s a great fellowship and brotherhood out here. Everybody’s a friend. You go somewhere in the world and you’re traveling with poles, and you’re really part of a family, and everybody watches out for people. … It’s a close-knit group.


School: Murrieta Valley

Born: Sept. 3, 1994, in Murrieta

Class: Senior

Sport: Track and field

Event: Pole vault

Accomplishments: Set both a Riverside County record and the top vault in the state this year with a mark of 16 feet, 6 ½ inches at the Arcadia Invitational last month. … He finished fifth in the state last year with a vault of 15 feet. … USC and the University of South Dakota are among his college choices. … Away from the track, Chapman earned an Eagle Scout designation in December.


Favorite sport to watch: “Track and field —- I love watching those competitions when they actually do show up on ESPN or Universal Sports.”

Favorite athletes: Pole vaulters Tim Mack, Brad Walker and Steve Hooker

Favorite movie: The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Last movie seen in a theater: “The Hunger Games”

Must-see TV: “Phineas and Ferb”

Recommended reading: “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

Listening to: Skillet

Eating out at: In-N-Out

Favorite video game: “Battlefield 3”

App to live by: Pages

Hobbies: Track and field, Boy Scouts, guitar

In five years … : “I hope to have made the Olympic team, competing past college and have a job as a news anchor for a news station.”


Retrieved From:

Peter Chapman

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