When kids in Keller say they’re taking a pole to Bear Creek Park, it's not for fishing.
Starting in their younger years, kids in the Keller school district have been pole vaulting.
What it has yielded is a trend that may well continue, as pole vaulters from the school district have been consistent podium residents at UIL track and field meets. Regional meets are Friday and Saturday.
This year, like in 2017, Keller ISD pole vaulters have taken the top three finishes in both the district and area meets.
At the District 3-6A meet, Connor Gregston, a Fossil Ridge junior, finished first at 15 feet, 6 inches. Ross Dean, a Keller senior, was second with a 14-6 and Thomas Henderson, a Keller junior, was third, 14-0.
At the 3-/4-6A area meet a week later, it was the same order, but both Gregston and Dean hit six inches lower.
Gregston also hit 15-6 at last year’s regionals, getting the wild card spot for the state meet because he had the best third-place finish among regional-meet competitors. He went on to take fifth at state in 2017, just his fourth year of jumping.
The area vaulters are following last year’s Keller ISD area sweep when Central’s Logan Freeman, and Keller’s Eric Etie, finished 1-2 and Gregston nabbed third. A Timber Creek pole vaulter, Kamron Goppffarth, finished fourth.
Freemen is now competing for Texas A&M and Etie is at Wichita State vaulting for the Shockers.
Many local pole vaulters have gotten their start under the coaching of Hal Theodore, who has had a pole vaulting setup and clinic off Bear Creek Parkway in Keller. It was driving past Theodore’s pole vaulting pit - which can be seen when driving to Bear Creek Park - when Gregston said the facility intrigued him and gave him the desire to pursue the sport.
He began taking lessons from George Rodriquez and continues to take private lessons from him, as do other local vaulters.
It’s the availability of solid coaches which Gregston and Fossil Ridge head track coach Jay Freeman believe is a likely reason the Keller contingent does so well.
But Freeman gives plenty of kudos to Gregston’s aptitude and athleticism.
“He works extremely hard and he’s smart, as far as pole vaulting goes, understanding what changes he needs to make as he goes along. He develops a good plan as to how he wants to approach things,” Freeman said.
The three competitors will once more see each other when they take to the pole vault area at UT-Arlington's Maverick Stadium on Friday when the competition gets started at noon.
Henderson and Gregston have been vaulting together “every step of the way,” Gregston said.
The opportunity is there for two of the local vaulters to qualify for the state meet in Austin, May 11-12.
While Gregston has cleared 16-0 at an indoor meet in late January, he still feels at least 16-3 is within reach.
The Keller vaulters and a competitor from Tyler Lee will be pushing for the title, too, though.
And by next season, there may be a new crop of Keller ISD pole vaulters ready to continue the streak.