May 8, 2007
Fitzgerald -- Lee County pole vaulter John Smith has a common name, but is looking for uncommon results in the GHSA track and field state championships.
The junior has been vaulting to new heights, and a state record could be ready to fall.
Smith will compete in the state championships for the third time in his high school career this week, and the junior is looking for his first taste of success.
"Not so great my freshman year," says Smith. "Last year wasn't so hot either. Got big plans this year, I think."
Those big plans include setting a new Class AAAA state record, passing the old mark of 14-feet, 9-inches.
"I've done 16' 5" out here at practice," says Smith.
Smith's pole vaulting coach Charlie Polhamus says, "He could possibly be the first 17-foot vaulter in the state of Georgia, because he has that potential. He's got the total package."
The Trojan track star has seen marked improvement in his height after he started training in Fitzgerald with the former world record holder Polhamus.
"It's been a big help," says Smith. "I've come out here probable 2 1/2 months and improved my height 2 1/2 or 3 feet."
Polhamus says, "His best height was 13' 6". His best competitive vault is now 15'. He won the two biggest high school meets on the east coast, with the Bob Hayes and the Florida State Invitational, which sort of elevated him and put him in the limelight of the nation."
Only two other high school vaulters in Georgia have cleared 15 feet.
Polhamus says Smith has no where to go but up...and over.
"He has the speed, he has the strength, and we're going to build on that," says Smith. "He just have to move up in poles, move up in grips, and he'll just jump higher and higher. It's fun to watch."
Lee County fans will be watching for state records to fall beginning Thursday at noon at the state championships.