Rifle takes to pole vaulting in a big way | PostIndependent.com
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Rifle takes to pole vaulting in a big way

Joelle Milholm
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” As the darkness settled in at Rifle High School, the lights turned on and the pole vaulters took center stage.

Every time the bar went up a notch, more and more spectators gathered to watch the event ” which was happening for the first time at Rifle.

Although the Bears are new to the sport, they rocked it with Kyle Zumbranen taking first, Abram Dennis placing second and James Martinez taking fourth in the boys competition. Tori Jorgenson represented the Bear girls and finished second.



Rifle head coach Jerry Shafer was blown away by his team’s performance.

“In one year what they’ve done, you just don’t find that,” said Shafer, who along with assistant coach Josh Kepler have coached in various places around the country. “The growth in one year we have not seen before.”



Zumbranen, who only started pole vaulting two months ago, won the event after clearing the 11-foot-6-inch bar and having fewer falls than Dennis. The junior said as soon as Rifle brought in pole vaulting, he wanted to be part of it.

“I though I would be kinda good at it. It seemed fun and I was attracted to the whole sling-shot thing and it’s a blast,” Zumbranen said. “It’s been fun. We’ve got an excellent coach and he is always there so if we do something minor he is there to correct it.”

Zumbranen said he had Dennis can hit around 12 feet in practice, but it was a lot harder to do it Friday night.

“I was kinda disappointed when I didn’t hit it, but it is kinda nerve-wracking with everyone watching and in the lights,” he said.

Dennis, a senior who competed in pole vaulting in Pennsylvania before moving to Rifle, also hit 11-6, but had more falls than Zumbranen.

“I do a lot better in practice. It is a lot of pressure with everyone so close,” he said. “I gotta stop missing so I can beat him. He is two years younger than me.”

By competing in pole vault, Rifle joins Battle Mountain, who’s done it for over four years, and Eagle Valley and Steamboat Springs, who are both fairly new to the pole vaulting scene, as teams who compete in the event.

Martinez, who is only a sophomore, placed fourth after clearing 10-6.

“Martinez grew out of his pole aleady ” in a month and a half,” Shafer said. “In the first year, you just don’t see that very often.”

Shafer says all of his pole vaulters are dedicated and often stay longer at practice and hit the track during their lunch to practice. If the younger ones keep it up, they have a good shot at a pole vaulting career in Shafer’s eyes.

“I think James and Kyle if they want to both have to potential to do pole vaulting in college,” Shafer said.

While 13-6 is prequalifying mark for state, Shafer thinks his kids could qualify at regionals if they hit around 13.

Jorgenson was the only Bear to compete in the pole vault on Friday. The sophomore took second, clearing the bar when it was set at 7 feet. Not bad considering Jorgenson just started pole vaulting two weeks ago. Not bad all considering it was her first time competing in a meet.

Jorgenson said it has been a process learning how to compete and has definitely gotten her fair share of bruises.

“At first it seems easy and then you start moving up the pole and when you get higher it’s harder. To get the whole motion down in the hardest part,” she said.

Jorgenson, who said her personal best is somewhere between seven and eight feet, said all the work is worth it for what it feels like when she clears the bar.

“It feels amazing,” she said.

Friday marked a good beginning as Rifle hosted its first pole vaulting event and placed four athletes in the top four. While Shafer sees a bright future for the program, he also hopes his kids will have more opponents to compete against.

“Hopefully it starts bringing pole vault back to the Western Slope,” Shafer said. ‘I know people started to shy away from it because it is dangerous, but if you keep it controlled and have spotters there and mats, it’s fun.”


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