Vaulting to success

River Road pole vaulters Harris, Adams excel despite obstacles

Being a pole vaulter at River Road hasn’t been easy the last few weeks.

Not because there isn’t a strong tradition or a top-notch coach, but because there is nowhere on campus to practice.

The school in north Amarillo is laying down artificial turf on its football field/track, and the pole vault pit has been a casualty of construction.

“We’ve haven’t had a place to practice since a week before district,” said River Road pole vault coach Joe Yankovich.

That hasn’t stopped sophomore vaulters Zack Harris and Birgen Adams, though.

The River Road duo has practiced at different schools around Amarillo and will compete at state at noon Friday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.

“We’re getting to see new people,” Adams said. “It’s kind of sad that we can’t go to our own place but it’s fun getting to go to new places and meet new coaches.”

Some coaches, such as Amarillo High’s Jim Langdon, have not only let the River Road crew use their pits but have offered poles and tips.

“We’ve been able to go to schools where there’s some top-notch equipment,” Harris said. “It’s really been helping me out a lot.”

When it comes to pole vaulting, Yankovich said the camaraderie between schools isn’t unusual in Amarillo.

“Pole vault is a really cool sport around here,” said Yankovich, who is leaving River Road after the school year. “It’s kind of unique.”

Going to state this year is even more special for Adams and Harris because it will be the last time Yankovich will go to Austin as the River Road pole vault coach.

“I’m very excited,” Adams said. “It’s nice that we could do that for coach (Yankovich) his last year here.”

Adams, who has been vaulting since she was in eighth grade, cleared her top height of the year at regionals (10 feet, 6 inches) and thinks she is peaking at the right time.

“I think it’s really important because we’ve been working really hard,” Adams said.

Harris, a vaulter since seventh grade, has put in a lot of time, too, and has improved three feet since last year.

“I need to stay focused,” Harris said. “I progressed through the summer and have been pretty much vaulting non-stop since November.

“I’ve just got to keep my head straight.”


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