Jefferson City Pole Vaulter Soaring to New Heights

7 years 2 months 3 weeks ago Sunday, July 24 2011 Jul 24, 2011 Sunday, July 24, 2011 9:20:00 PM CDT July 24, 2011 in Sports
By: Eric Blumberg

JEFFERSON CITY - When you think of summer relaxtion and vacation are likely thoughts. One Jefferson City athlete is using his summer vacation to do anything but relax.

This summer Joe Burkett doesn't live an average life. After morning weighlifting and running with the football team, he works a summer job stacking bricks and then he spends his late afternoon perfecting the craft that made him the number one ranked sophomore in the nation.

If you're looking for Joe Burkett...look to the skies.

"Every time he gets a new height I'm just shaking my head...I can't believe he's going that high," said Eric Burkett, Joe's dad

At the Missouri High School State Championships in May, Burkett jumped 15'-3" and finished 4th in state. When he's vaulting... There are other numbers on his mind.

"Most of the numbers that we do are your steps," said Joe Burkett. "If your steps are wrong... you're not going to take off right and end up wiping out. They just call me a freight train because I count down on my steps so I make sure I get every one in the same spot everytime."

Freight train puts down the pole in the fall and plays football for Jays.

"Whenever football's over you're ready for pole vault to start and whenever pole vault is over you're ready for football to start," Joe said. 

"Not too often do you get a middle linebacker coming out to pole vault," said Jefferson City Pole Vault Coach Scott Gschwender.

Burkett's reaching new heights never before seen in Jefferson City. Joe's dad vaulted for Helias High School but son vaulted dad's best mark in his first meet his freshman season.

Eric Burkett said, "He jumped and cleared a height and I was in the stands and he looked over at me and he pointed and said, 'I tied your record.' and I said you didn't beat it yet and the next jump he beat it."

The Jefferson City High School record is 15'-71/4" but Burkett doesn't own it even though he's jumped higher.

"My summer best is 15'-9"," said Joe, "but since it was during the summer it doesn't count as the school record."

With two more seasons to vault even the state record isn't out of reach.

"16'-4.5," said Coach Gschwender. "I'm sure that's not out of his reach. I'm not going to say he's going to break it or not going to break it. That's up to Joe. Skies the limit. That's all I can say. Skies the limit."

Burkett also credits his personal coach, Former Baylor All-American pole vaulter Todd Cooper with helping him reach new heights. Cooper is a former Missouri High School champion.

Joe competes in the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics later this month in Wichita, Kansas.

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