There’s a plenty of talent in girls pole vault in the Class 3A South Puget Sound League, but no jumper has broke from the pack to distinguish themselves as the favorite heading into the postseason.
Coming into this week, the bar has been set to 9 feet, with three girls having reached that mark: Lakes High’s Sienna Ramirez and the Bonney Lake duo of Lauren Waters and Hailey Taylor. Bonney Lake’s Jennafer Schweyen is tied for fourth place with Auburn Riverside’s Luba Migdal at 8 feet, 6 inches.
It’s the trio of Bonney Lake girls that might have the best chance to represent the league at the West Central District 3 meet on May 22.
"I’ve been (vaulting) 8-6 since last year. I’ve been trying to get to 9 feet – that’s my goal this year," Waters said at practice last week. "If I can get 9 feet, I can go for the school record."
Bonney Lake’s school record for girls in the pole vault sits at 9 feet, 1 inch, and Waters hit 9 feet on Thursday in the Panthers’ meet. The strong jump puts the junior that much closer to her goal.
But hot on her trail for the school record is a natural vaulter, the sophomore Taylor.
"This is my first year on a track team ever," Taylor said. "It’s a really good experience as I’m learning a lot from this team. It’s been fun."
First year or not, Taylor is starting out her Bonney Lake pole vaulting career in record-setting fashion. Along with Waters, Taylor hit 9 feet at the Auburn meet last week, setting her up for the record as well.
It’s hard dealing with natural talent at times. It’s an experience Taylor came to understand as she began matching the top heights in the vault each week.
"I’d feel bad if I got the record before anyone else on my team," she said. "They’ve worked so hard to get to where they are … I’d hate to take that from them during my first year."
However talented an individual is, it’s about the team for Bonney Lake.
"Having the league’s best talent at practice helps push me," Waters said. "We want to get as far together as a team."
If you go by opinion of Schweyen’s season last year, she would give you a simple one: she stunk.
"I didn’t do well last year at all," she said. "I felt like I couldn’t match how I started — I felt like I just sunk down each week."
After hitting 7 feet, 6 inches in the first meet of her freshman season, Schweyen couldn’t find a way to surpass the 7-foot mark the rest of the way. She was right — she peaked early.
But the talent is there, and no one knows that better than her brother, Austin. Austin’s pole vault jump of 13 feet currently sits alone in third place the district.
So Austin knows a thing or two about the pole vault. Yet when it comes to her sister, he knows even more.
"I knew that she (Jennafer) would be a really good vaulter," Austin said. "She probably didn’t come to track to hang out with her brother all day, but I pushed her toward this."
A desire to spend more family time with a sibling might not been the point, but learning from Austin has helped Jennafer build momentum toward sub-districts and district championships, instead of falling off at the end like last year.
And along the way, Jennafer has nailed the 9-foot, 6-inch mark, keeping her on pace with the top vaulters in league.
"Having him around at practice helps because he knows how I can fix or adjust my technique," Jennafer said. "Austin’s not just like that with me but the team, too – boys and girls. He wants us to be our best."
Throughout practice last week, Austin was in charge of the vaulting exercises, directing both of the Panthers’ boys and girls teams.
Even as a junior, his teammates listened closely as he explained hand technique to one girl on the team or reminded another on the boys to not land on his feet. It didn’t matter who it was or how well they vaulted, there’s always room to improve with Austin.
"I just want them to be their best, that’s why I try to help when I can or give advice to something I see," Austin said. "I love being out here with everyone … track is just a great community to be a part of."