West Brook, Lumberton pole vaulters aim for new heights at Texas Relays

Tritt wrote and sang a country hit titled “Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof,” which accurately described the ideal mindset for a pole vaulter.

Lumberton senior Kaitlyn Black stands exactly half of 10 feet. The 18-year-old loves the pole vault more than she needs it. West Brook senior Will Gavrelos knows he’s not bulletproof but he continues to travel great lengths because of his passion for vaulting.

Black and Gavrelos will compete this weekend with dozens of other Southeast Texas athletes at the 89th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin.

Few besides vaulters understand the sport’s language and challenges. Virtually none of the area’s schools have top-notch pole vault facilities or instructors.

Gavrelos drives to the East Texas town of Jacksonville on weekends to refine his skills. Black and her mother, Christy, travel to Porter, north of Houston, for more extensive practices. It’s an obvious labor of love for two athletes with different aspirations.

If either succeeds, the other will deserve some credit for an assist. The two occasionally train together in Southeast Texas. Because of that, and their proximity at competitions, their familiarity makes it easier to critique each other’s techniques.

Gavrelos plans to sign with the University of Houston on April 13. He hopes the track scholarship is only the beginning. Gavrelos began vaulting at West Brook after coach Eric Peevey encouraged him to try it as a freshman.

“I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “(Houston) has a great track history and a real good coaching staff. I’m hoping to get 17 or 18 (feet) some day.”

The West Brook athlete improved one notch each year in his three previous district meets – finishing third as a freshman and second as a sophomore before becoming the boys 21-6A pole vault champion as a junior. His personal best is 15-feet and his best vault this year is 14-foot-6.

“When I jump, I don’t think about what could happen,” he said. “When you think about it, then you mess up.”

While Gavrelos might only be starting his pole vault journey, Black is finishing a career that began five years ago.

She plans to be a Business Finance major at Texas State University in the fall. There’s some unfinished business for the two-time defending district pole vault champion, though.

“I would like to break our school record (11-7 by Leslie Beard),” said Black, who cleared 11-3 last year at East Chambers. “I’m not afraid. Fear is one thing that doesn’t hold me back. But pole vaulting for six years really takes a toll on your body.

“I thought at first that it was crazy, but I’m so glad I did it. I wouldn’t give up these memories for anything.”

The Texas Relays could add more memories. Gavrelos competes today at 1:30 while Black vaults on Saturday morning at 9:30.






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