Joseph Aubert isn’t sure where the urge came from. It wasn’t a long-standing dream; it wasn’t a desire steeping away until an opportunity presented itself. No, it seemed to have spontaneously popped into his head, fully formed. And he’s glad it did.
“I didn’t turn out for track as a freshman wanting to be a pole vaulter,” the West Valley High School senior explained. “But as soon as I saw the pit, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Four years later, Aubert leaves the Eagles with a second-place trophy in that event from the state Class 2A track and field championships, clearing 14 feet, 6 inches. The senior finished tied at that height with Brendan Casey of Washougal, who took home the first-place trophy by virtue of fewer misses.
“I think part of the attraction was that it was the first year for Matt Colyar, the pole vault coach,” Aubert said. “His first day as a coach was my first day as a vaulter. Things kinda clicked for us and I have a lot of trust in him and in my other coaches.
“It’s not a natural thing to take this big, long pole and be told to run as fast as you can with it toward a box and then use it to vault over a bar. You have to have a lot of trust in the people working with you when you do an event like this one.”
Aubert cleared 13-6, good for fourth place, at state as a junior and entered his senior year as a preseason favorite to reach the state meet. He said he had no specific goals in mind at the beginning of spring practices.
“I really didn’t have a specific height in mind for myself and if I thought about it, I’d have to say that clearing 14-6 exceeds what I expected for myself,” he said. “As a team, we get together and we set our goals, but we hardly ever talk about state. Our goal is to be the best team in the Great Northern League. It’s a lot of fun to win league championships and to be the best team in the league. Once we get that out of the way, we can concentrate on district and state (meets).
“When it comes to state, our coaches do a great job of getting us prepared. We go to (the) Pasco (Invitational) every year. When you do the pole vault there, you have 30 or 40 guys you’re competing against. When you compare that to state, it’s no big deal.”
This year, his coaches, Colyar and head coach Vic Wallace, told Aubert to compete hard, but to have fun doing it.
On a rainy, windy day in Seattle, he did just that.
“I’m kind of at a difficult spot with my vaulting right now – I’m kind of in between poles. I can use a 14-foot pole to clear 14-6, but if I want to go higher, I have to use a 15-foot pole and that one is, in addition to being a foot longer, stiffer and you have to use more speed and more strength to get it to work for you.”
That meant making a pole change in the middle of the state meet – not something a vaulter likes to do. It means changing a number of approach techniques.
“That’s where you have to really trust your coaches and I have all the trust in the world in them,” he said. “They told me I could handle the bigger pole and I did OK.”
And he’s happy with the result.
“You always want to jump higher,” he said. “I took a shot at clearing 15-feet and missed. I can feel it – I’m so close to clearing 15-feet right now that I can taste it. I think if I had just a couple more weeks of practice I could do it. I have the speed, I have the strength, I just need to work on my technique at the top to get my body over the bar. I’m maybe 10 or 15 degrees away from getting up and over.”
With his event, Aubert said, breaking new barriers like the one he faces at 15 feet just take time and patience.
“You just have to do it one time and then it’s no longer an obstacle,” he said. “You rely so much on muscle memory in this sport. Once you do it, you know how to do it again and again.”
That will come with time, he said.
Aubert said he will try to get to some open track and field meets at Spokane Falls Community College over the summer, but his job baling hay comes first.
“I do plan on vaulting in college,” he said. “So I do have time to reach my goal. I plan on walking on with the track and field team at the University of Washington next year.”
Meanwhile Aubert has another high bar to clear.
The valedictorian of the West Valley Class of 2011, Aubert says he’s ready for Graduation Day, June 12.
“I have my speech already written and approved,” he laughed. “I’d like to say that I’m not nervous about it – and I’m not nervous about it right now. But I have a feeling that, when I get up in front of 2,000 people and get ready to speak, my palms will be sweaty and I’ll have butterflies.”