COOS BAY — Two young athletes from the Prefontaine Track Club will represent the South Coast at the Junior Olympics National Championship in Sacramento next week.
Jonathan Parks and Trent Summers qualified for Nationals in the pole vault at the Junior Olympics Regional meet in Tacoma, Wash., the weekend of July 4. Parks, 13, placed first in the state and regional competitions, vaulting 12 feet, 6 inches. Summers, 14, placed second in both competitions, vaulting 11 feet.
Pole vaulter Trent Summers with the Prefontaine Track Club practices Thursday at Marshfield High School. Summers is one of a pair of athletes …
According to Steve Puckett, pole vaulting coach of the Prefontaine Track Club, Summers is the first incoming freshman from Coos Bay to qualify for nationals in the event.
Summers said the experience was "pretty crazy" and not something he was expecting this year. Parks admitted he did not expect to make it past the district competition. Both athletes said they were excited and nervous about going to the national meet.
"It just comes out of nowhere and surprises you," Summers said of becoming state and regional champion.
Cory Summers, Trent's father and a volunteer pole vaulting coach, said both athletes progressed quickly. He recalled Trent, a second-year pole vaulter, was only jumping 8 feet last year, but at the start of this year was reaching 9 feet and quickly progressed to 10 and 11; Parks, a first-year jumper, also progressed quickly, showing lots of potential at the start of the year before being moved up to compete with an older age group.
"He really was a stand-out jumper the entire year," the coach said of Parks, noting how hard a sport pole vaulting is. "Both of these guys have just totally mastered it this year. They've been nationally ranked most of this year."
Trent and Parks both said they are excited for the future and experiencing the next level of competition. Parks, who has one more year of middle school competition, said it will be strange competing without Trent. The two were each other's main source of competition within the club.
"It's exciting watching the transition from middle school to high school," Cory said. "Middle school, it's such a hard sport to learn, it usually takes a full year to get comfortable with it, then another full year to show any real progress."
Puckett said he's excited about the meet and happy that it is on the West Coast this year — athletes might not be able to get to the competition if it were somewhere in the Midwest or East Coast due to prohibitive travel costs.
In the days leading up to the competition, Trent and Parks have been practicing their technique, including the sprint to the pit, timing for their pole planting, core work and strength training.
Puckett said both athletes have a chance of winning the competition and will push to do their best at the championship.
The pole vault section of the national meet will take place July 23 and 24 on the campus of California State University, Sacramento.