ANDOVER, Kan. (KSNW) — The approach, plant, swing up, extension, turn, and fly-away. These are the steps of a perfect pole vault.
There’s a young man at Andover Central High School who’s vaulting higher than anyone else in Kansas state high school history.
About a year ago, brothers Ashton and Bryce Barkdull dueled in the Class 5A pole vault finals at the Kansas State High School State Championship meet. Ashton, a senior at the time, beat his younger brother and won the state championship with a state record vault.
Now, Ashton is off to college, and it’s Bryce’s turn to shine.
Pole vaulters are a little bit different breed.
“Absolutely. You got to be a little crazy. You know, you got to be a little bit, you know, just not care. Just give yourself away and go out and fly as high as you can,” said Ryan Barkdull, Andover Central pole vault coach.
“Yeah, it does take a lot of courage, but also, it’s got to take a lot of determination and will power to keep going even through the bad days,” said Bryce, a junior pole vaulter for the Jaguars.
Bryce is having more good days than bad ones. About three weeks ago, he vaulted over his brother’s state record of 16 feet 7.25 inches and ended up clearing 17 feet 3.25 inches.
“I set a PR of over a foot, and I broke the school record by over half a foot,” said Bryce.
Last Friday at the Shawnee Mission North Relays, Bryce made history.
“I really wanted to get over that 17 foot mark. That was really when the adrenaline started pumping because that would’ve been the meet record,” said Bryce.
When all the other competitors had fallen out of the competition, Bryce stood at the end of the runway with the bar raised to 17 feet 6.25 inches. It was a chance to break a 43-year-old Kansas state record of 17 feet 6 inches.
“I really had a lot of energy flowing, and the crowd was a lot bigger than our last meet back at Andover. So, and then I put up 17 [feet] 6 and a quarter [inches], and the crowd just went wild, and it was so amazing.”
That height of 17 feet 6.25 inches is the second-best high school vault in the nation this year, and it’s a new Kansas state record.
“It was it was awesome. I mean, he’s been primed to jump really high,” said Bryce’s father, Ryan. “We’ve just had to put a few things together, and the last couple of weeks has really started to pick some things up and correct his top of his vault, which makes him have a lot more height over the bar. And it’s a matter of time, and Friday was the night.”
Now, Bryce is focused on winning a state championship. And he has another magic number in mind.
“Right now, it’s 18 [feet] one-and-a-half [inches]. Right now, the number-one best junior last year was 18 [feet] one [inch], and I want to beat that. And that would make me the number-two junior of all time behind the world record holder currently. So, that goal is out of mind. That’s not that achievable, but I think I can make 18-1 this year.”
Bryce benefits from having a father/coach who was a two-time All-American pole vaulter at Wichita State University. He also has a big brother, Ashton, who is a freshman vaulter on the University of Kansas track & field team.