When Ben Gaylord ’13 was 12 years old he went to a UCLA track and field camp over the summer, which ended up shaping his life.
Gaylord fell in love with pole vaulting after the coach at the camp had given campers small poles to play around with on the grass. Little did Gaylord know, he would excel in it for years to come.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Gaylord said. “The next summer I went to a specialized pole vault camp, and after that I started doing it more often and getting into it.”
In the 2012 track and field season, Gaylord was able to make it to the state finals and win fifth place. He was the only junior in the competition, so this year, with more experience under his belt, he has loftier expectations. Gaylord won’t be satisfied with fifth place.
“It’ll be really tough, I am going to have to practice hard and stay healthy,” Gaylord said. “I do have three or four rivals in-state who are just as good as me or even better than me, so it’ll be a challenge. I’m going to have to come to each meet with a purpose, and I think I can do it. If I work hard I can probably win state.”
Another one of Gaylord’s goals is to break the Harvard- Westlake pole vault record. The record is 16 feet four inches and was set by Jessie Stern in 1993.
“I definitely want to try to get out there and break that record,” Gaylord said. “I am getting pretty close. My personal record right now is 15- foot-6, so if I can get a foot more this season that would be great.”
Gaylord is now ranked the number one pole-vaulter in the state and 19th in the country by Athletic.net as he heads into his senior season. To prepare for the upcoming season, Gaylord is pole vaulting three times a week, doing running workouts with the track team and rock climbing or going to the beach to do upper body workouts over the weekend.
“It’s pretty intensive,” Gaylord said. “I would say I have one day off the entire week.”
Over the summer, Gaylord went to three pole vault camps at UCLA to continue to improve and perfect his technique.
“Pole vaulting is such a technical event that people can pole vault for 15 years and still have minor flaws in their technique,” Gaylord said. “There is always something I can continue to work on and get better at.”
Gaylord plans to step in and become a leader on the track and field team in the upcoming season.
“Even though pole vaulting is an individual event, there is still a large amount of people on the team and it is great to use the knowledge that I have acquired from pole vaulting for so long to help people out and be a leader,” Gaylord said.