Burroughs High's Schwartz soars to state final in pole vault

Matt Schwartz came through when it mattered most.

Down to his final attempt in the boys' pole vault at Friday's 96th annual CIF State Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis, the Burroughs High senior needed a big effort.

That's just what he got, as Schwartz soared over the bar at 15 feet 9 for the most significant clearance of his pole vaulting life. That effort was enough to qualify the senior for Saturday's final at 7 p.m. at the same venue.

Schwartz placed ninth in the competition, with the top 10 moving on to Saturday's meet.

The senior was able to accomplish the feat despite suffering from strep throat this week.

"I didn't practice all week," Schwartz said. "My tonsils are still swollen but hey, this is the state meet, so I had to be out there. I kind of felt it with my first couple of jumps because I was a little off and that's because I just hadn't practiced."

The 15-9 effort was also significant because it was Schwartz' personal record, besting the 15-6 he attained in April. Moreover, it put him at No. 2 on the Burroughs all-time list.

Heading into the state meet, Schwartz sat at No. 3 on the Burroughs all-time vaulting list, trailing Essa Sallinen, who is first with a 16-4 3/4 mark in 1994 and Jon Switzer, who reached 15-7 in 1976, and is now relegated to third.

The Burroughs senior started out Friday's competition with two strong attempts. He cleared his opening height of 14-3 on his first attempt and then made it over the bar on his initial attempt at 14-9.

However, when the bar was moved up to 15-3, Schwartz hit a snag. On his first attempt, he was well over the bar, but knocked it off on his descent. On his second attempt, Schwartz soared over the bar to make it easily.

More challenges awaited when the athletes moved up to 15-9. Schwartz missed badly on his first effort, coming up short and not getting close to the bar. He also missed his second attempt, leaving him with one more try. Schwartz shook off the pressure and made it over on his final attempt, punching his ticket to Saturday's final.

"It just feels amazing to be able to make it to Saturday," said Schwartz, the reigning Pacific League champion. "Just getting up as high as I did is exciting. But, at the same time, third attempts are always scary. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be, being my third attempt. I actually felt pretty confident about it."

Burroughs Coach John Peebles said the pressure Schwartz faced on his third attempt was nothing new for the athlete this season.

"He was able to move on at Masters. At Masters he made it on his last attempt and in league finals at a certain height he missed two times," Peebles said. "It's just about being able to have that confidence to come through when he needed to."

Schwartz qualified for state competition by making the at-large height of 15-2 at the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Masters Meet at Cerritos College on May 30.

Schwartz is the first Burroughs athlete to advance to the state meet since Western Nelson in the boys' 3,200 meters in 2009. Schwartz is the third pole vaulter from Burroughs to qualify for state competition. The first to make it was Ron Morris, who won a state title in 1953 with a 13-0 effort.

"Hey, my goal is to get that first-place spot on the [school] list. Who wants to be No. 2?," Schwartz said. "I am still shooting for the 16-5 and I'm hoping for a really good effort Saturday night and I really want to get up there at 16-0."


Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.

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