On a sunny Thursday afternoon during Bear River’s Spring Break, Jason McShane, a junior on the track and field team, isn’t out with his friends, playing video games or lounging next to a lake. He’s busy putting in the work necessary to accomplish the goals he and his coach have set forth.
McShane, and new Bear River pole vaulting coach Paul Litchfield, were the only two occupants at a vacant Bear River High School Thursday as the two continued to build on the vast progress already made by the budding pole vaulter.
“He’s extremely dedicated,” Litchfield said. “Jason always shows up early. He’s the last one to leave. He’s always asking if he can do extra stuff, what can he do at home. He’s really dedicated and that makes him a great athlete.”
His dedication paid off this week when McShane broke the Bear River school pole vault record, clearing a mark of 14-feet, 4-inches. The vault propelled McShane to a second place finish at the Rio Linda Invitational and above Bear River’s previous record holder, none other than Litchfield.
“It was awesome to be there when he broke my record,” Litchfield said. “To be a part of it felt really good.”
Litchfield graduated Bear River in 1999, the same year he set the old pole vault record, and went on to become an NCAA All-American in the sport at Idaho State before becoming a professional known as the “Tuxedoman.” Litchfield often competed in a pole vaulting suit made to resemble a tuxedo.
Litchfield says he is basically retired from competing, but is happy to give back to the sport he loves and the high school where he first became acquainted with the sport.
“I feel like everybody that has an athletic background has some sort of obligation to give back to the sport,” he said. “And, I have acquired a lot of good knowledge over the years and I would hate to just sit on it. Because I do enjoy sharing it, and to do it at Bear River is just awesome.”
Litchfield has a long list of pole vaulting accolades and experience he brings to the table, including four Big Sky Conference pole vaulting championships and many years coaching for his alma mater and other institutions.
For McShane, his progress has been meteoric, something he credits his coaches with.
“I think I’m becoming more confident with myself and the event,” McShane said. “Nick Vogt, who is my club coach, he was an incredible teacher and he got me from 0-to-12 feet in six months. Training with him all through the summer and winter wasn’t necessarily about getting height, but working on technique so that I could transfer that to more height. Coming into the track season and working with Paul has been incredible. Paul has the vaulting experience and sometimes there’s just one little thing, and if it gets told to you in a different way it clicks and it’s so much easier.”
McShane has been vaulting for a mere 14 months, but has made impressive strides in the event. After his sophomore season McShane was clearing 12 feet. Over the summer he was clearing 12-9, and now that he has reached 14 feet and more, his goals are set at the state qualifying mark of 15-2.
“I’m hoping to be able to hit 15-2,” he said. “Which is the automatic qualifier for the state meet, and going to the state meet is my ultimate goal for this year.”
Meeting that goal is something Litchfield said is attainable.
“We talked about it in the beginning of the year when he was around 12 feet and I said ‘this is completely possible if you keep showing up and doing the things I think you can do. I really think you can jump higher than 15-2,’” Litchfield said. “I think he’s starting to believe me, I think he’s on board. But it is a lot, it’s a lot of progression, but if he wasn’t so advanced and so dedicated I wouldn’t do it.”
McShane said the sport first appealed to him as a freshman, but an injury shelved the endeavor for a season. Now that he’s been competing for more than a year, he couldn’t see himself doing any other event.
“It’s always an adrenaline rush.” he said. “How many people can say they launch themselves 14-15 feet into the air and walk away unharmed? You get such an exciting feeling when you clear that high bar, the rush of it — nothing else touches it.”
While McShane is just a junior he hopes that the hours of training will pay off with a college scholarship, but knows he still has a ways to go before that comes to fruition.
“Paul told me it takes 10,000 jumps and then your finally good,” McShane said. “It takes 10,000 more and then your excellent. It really is the most repetitious sport I’ve ever done. It’s a lot.”
McShane, who also is a member of the Bruin soccer team, said he is happy he has been able to bring attention to pole vaulting, a sport he felt was being overlooked in the area.
“I’d like to thank everyone that has made this possible for me,” he said while breathing heavily during a break in his workout. “This event was dying in this area and we have just recently been refreshing the program. We have Paul as a coach and we’re getting people interested in the event again. We want to bring back the awareness of it. It’s such an incredible sport, I’d love for everyone to experience it.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.