Pole vaulters travel in their own unique vaulting families. A certain fraternity, a brotherhood, exists among athletes who are crazy enough to thrust themselves toward the heavens using a big stick.
Grahm Gonzalez’s vaulting family started in his own house.
Gonzalez followed his older brother Greyson, a freshman vaulter at Baylor, into the sport at Bosqueville. If Greyson and good friend Chase Hood hadn’t picked up a pole first, Grahm may have never discovered his love of flying.
“He pushed me and I pushed him,” Grahm Gonzalez said. “It was a good relationship we had going. That’s really what sparked it, was having my older brother and pretty much a sibling, Chase Hood, go before me.”
Last year the brothers shared some space on the medal stand at the UIL state meet, as Greyson captured a Class 2A silver medal and Grahm took bronze. With his older bro now at Baylor, Grahm will return to state this week in his quest to capture the family’s first gold medal.
The way he’s been going, simply winning state may be the lowest bar. Grahm cleared 16 feet at the Region III-2A meet in Palestine two weeks ago, a personal best and the top vault by a Central Texas athlete this season. It’s also the best among his 2A challengers at state by two feet.
“It was like a big relief off my stomach, especially when you know you’re capable of doing something for so long,” Gonzalez said. “I had a setback of breaking my hand in football season, so it was about getting back into the groove. The practice before that (regional) meet I was jumping big bars and my coach was like, ‘You’re about to jump 16.’ I was like, ‘I know I am, Coach. I’m going to do my best.’ I was more being really positive, but not knowing for sure.”
Even as they’re competing against one another, vaulters often cheer such rafters-raising performances. Gonzalez said that after he cleared that 16-foot height, the Bosqueville fan club grew exponentially.
“Everyone was going crazy there,” Gonzalez said. “I had a bunch of kids, anyone who competed in the meet, talking to me, saying, ‘Dude, that was awesome to watch and be a part of.’ I was like, ‘Appreciate it.’”
Gonzalez has sharpened his technique working out at Waco’s Zero G Elite Pole Vault Club. There he benefits from what he called “the best coaches in the nation,” a group that includes former high school record-holder Brandon Richards, ACC record-holder Jeff Bray and collegiate record-holder Jacob Davis.
Gonzalez’s best friend Riley Richards, a junior at China Spring and fellow state qualifier, also works out at Zero G and helps motivate and push Grahm during their workouts. “(My clearing 16 feet) just seems like an every day thing when your best friend clears 17 in practice every day,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez has visions of approaching 17 feet himself. Even if he has a gold medal in hand at the state meet, he plans to pursue the 2A state record, which is 16-10.
If he reaches such lofty heights, Grahm won’t forget who piggy-backed his initial vaulting efforts.
“I don’t think I’d be half the vaulter I am without Greyson,” he said.