TAM HIGH’S August Kiles has soared through most of his senior track and field season.
A little more than a week ago, Kiles came back to Earth.
And he still soared.
Kiles, who has focused almost all his energy this season on his specialty event, the pole vault — he’s ranked 13th in the state with a 15-foot 7-inch jump — decided he needed to give his team a lift in a recent double-dual league meet against Justin-Siena and Novato.
So, Kiles, after an OK from his coach Bob McLennan, entered both hurdles events, along with competing in the pole vault and high jump.
Without training for the demanding hurdles all season, Kiles
proceeded to win both races — and in the process, he posted the fastest times in the MCAL.
With Tam’s top hurdler, Zach Knight, out with an injury, Kiles started entertaining the thought of entering the hurdles races a few weeks ago.
“I told coach, if the meet’s close, I want to run the hurdles,” said Kiles, who said he started running the hurdles in fifth grade. “Coach was like, ‘No way. I don’t want you to get injured.'”
Kiles said he showed up at the meet at Novato never intending to run in the hurdles races.
“I showed up thinking I was not running the hurdles,” Kiles said. “But when I got there, I thought the pole vault and high jump were not enough. I wanted to do more. I really wanted to help the team out.”
Finally, McLennan agreed.
“I asked coach, and he said, ‘Yes,'” Kiles said. “I warmed up on the hurdles and felt good. I surprised myself with how well I did. All the speed work I had done for the pole vault in the off season paid off.”
Still, despite Kiles’ heroic team effort, the Red-tailed Hawks lost their first boys dual meet since 2011, dropping a tight decision to upstart Justin-Siena.
Even though Kiles is certainly capable of winning three or four events at the May 11 MCAL finals, he insists his focus remains on the pole vault.
Interestingly, however, is the fact that Kiles has not improved since his personal best 15-7 jump at the March 9 K-Bell Invitational in Los Gatos. He neared that mark April 20 at the prestigious Mt. Sac relays when he jumped 15-6 and finished fifth.
“I was happy with 15-6,” he said “I came really close to 16-feet. I had the height on my fifth or sixth jump, but I didn’t end up putting up another jump like that.”
The pole vault is generally considered the most technical event in all of track and field. The variables involved in every jump are almost mind boggling.
Kiles relies on his strong grasp of mathematics to enhance his pole vault ability.
“You can kind of use principals in math to figure out the ideal technique,” Kiles said. “For example, you can relate your velocity in approach to how high you should potentially be able to go. But the key word is potentially. Without perfect technique and great speed, you’re not going to do anything. I think my application of math to the sport has helped me a lot, especially in the run-up.”
“August and the pole vault are a perfect match,” McLennan said. “Obviously, he’s a gifted athlete, from his hurdle and high jump results, but he’s also a gifted mathematician, and the pole vault provides numerous opportunities to work out math problems involving spacing, velocity, thrust, bend, angles, and the like.”
Still, the formula for success is infinitely difficult.
“It’s hard to be consistent in the pole vault because a million different things have to go right,” Kiles said. “In the pole vault, one thing follows another very rapidly. If you don’t get something right early in the approach, chances are that is going to have a negative effect later in the jump. A lot of things have to go right along the way to have a successful jump.”
Kiles, who competed in gymnastics at a young age and still takes gymnastics classes to improve his jumping technique, says the pole vault is a sprint followed by a gymnastics move.
In other words, a successful jump encompasses a dizzying array of technique, strength and athletic ability.
Kiles does not shy away from the challenge. In fact, he embraces it. His goal this season is to clear 16-6, which would put him in the conversation for a state title.
“I always set outrageous goals for myself,” said Kiles, who plans to attend a Division I college in the fall, but has not yet decided which one. “That way I always work harder than I might have because of those goals.”
Regardless of how the rest of this season pans out for Kiles, he’s confident he has put in the time and work necessary to excel.
McLennan predicts a bright future for Kiles.
“His work ethic, academics and athletic ability as he is maturing will make some university and Division 1 track and field program very happy,” he said.