The Sebring Blue Streaks have been fortunate to have some talented pole vaulters come through the school in the past few years; Colton Dillon, Byron Cobb and now the torch has been passed to junior Joey Piccione, who made his presence known last season with some exceptional efforts. He placed second at districts and seventh at regionals and is looking to take another step this season with a trip to state.

Pretty impressive for somebody who joined the Sebring track and field team to work on his foot speed to help him for football.

“I was at practice and a buddy of mine, Byron Cobb, said ‘you look like a pole vaulter,’ ” Piccione said. “I thought ‘it looks pretty scary,’ but I gave it a try and from that day I just fell in love with it.”

Cobb served as mentor and eventually Piccione hooked up with Cobb’s trainer, Jim Metzger, from St. Cloud and he has been working with him since the spring.

“Jim has helped me quite a bit,” Piccione said. “He’s the one who’s pushing me to become what I am.”

As soon as the high school season ended in May, the summer season began for Piccione and kept him busy, as he won a gold medal at the Sunshine State Games on June 21 in Punta Gorda and then followed that up with a silver medal at the AAU Junior Olympic Regional Qualifier in Naples on June 28.

In mid-July, he won a bronze medal at the at the USA Track and Field Regional Championship in Palm Beach Gardens and also won a gold medal at the 19th annual AAA Club Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

He capped off his summer season by qualifying and competing in both the USTAF Junior Olympics in Jacksonville and the AAU Junior Olympics in Norfolk, Virg., where he placed 10th in the 17 to 18 age group, despite being 16 years old the time. A September birthday caused him to compete against athletes who were older, but didn’t slow him down one bit.

While traveling all over the state, and beyond, could get a little tiresome, Piccione said he definitely enjoyed the trips to different competitions.

“You have fun with it,” he said. “To go to a new place is entertaining for me.”

Piccione’s travel schedule will resume again next month when he attends the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nevada, which he was looking forward to, as the list of speakers and coaches reads like a Who’s Who of the pole vaulting community, and includes coaches of Olympic golf medal winners and world record holders.

It also will be an opportunity to be seen by college recruiters, which is one of his goals.

“I really am working towards an athletic scholarship,” he said.

But first, Piccione has some goals he’s shooting for when the 2016 track and field season rolls around, with the first one being to break the school record of 14-feet-1-inch set by Dillon, who he has met.

“He’s come and visited us at practice,” Piccione said. “He’s a really cool guy.”

Piccione has a personal best of 13-3 in competition and has cleared 13-6 in practice, so he is definitely right there.

He also wants to follow the footsteps of Dillon and Cobb with a trip to the state meet.

Piccione said he couldn’t have made it as far as he has without the support of his family.

“The only people who really believed in me was my family,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough for it.”


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