Pole vaulter Matt Schwartz's future is up in the air

Matt Schwartz has vaulted himself into some rarefied air at Burroughs High.

During his senior season, Schwartz has continued to reach notable heights in the boys' pole vault. What has been more impressive is the athlete's progression on the school's all-time pole vault list in perhaps Burroughs' most illustrious track and field event.

"To be among the best pole vaulters in school history is an honor," Schwartz said. "That list is pretty impressive. It's nice to go to school where the record is pretty high."

The list includes a former Olympic silver medalist and high school national record holder, a CIF Southern Section and Masters Meet champion and numerous league champions.

In a season that has seen its share of amazing moments, Schwartz has put himself at No. 3 on the Indians' all-time list, just one inch away from the runner-up spot.

Schwartz will get a chance to add to his accomplishments when his Burroughs team takes on Burbank in the final Pacific League dual meet of the season at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Field. Along with the battle for city bragging rights, the meet holds an added significance in that the winner of the boys' meet will capture the league championship.

"Not just for me in the pole vault, but it looks like it's going to be an amazing meet in general," Schwartz said. "It is two great teams going at it. I don't even know when the last time Arcadia wasn't in the mix for a league title. It's just awesome for this to happen during my senior year. It's pretty amazing."

Schwartz will bring with him a great deal of momentum. The last two weeks, the senior has been able to continually better his personal record in the pole vault while continuing to climb up the all-time list.

His best effort came Saturday at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut. Competing in the Mt. SAC Relays, Schwartz placed first in the seeded event with an effort of 15 feet, 6 inches. Not only was it a personal best, but it set a new seeded record in the event.

That effort came on the heels of a PR of 15-1 Schwartz set April 16 in a league meet at Arcadia. That was one inch better than the 15-0 PR he achieved at the 47th annual Arcadia Invitational Track and Field Meet on April 12.

With his 15-6 effort, Schwartz now occupies the No. 3 spot on the Indians' all-time list, surpassing the No. 4 mark of Steve Morris, who vaulted 14-8 in 1967. He is just one inch below No. 2 Jon Switzer (15-7 in 1976).

However, to get the coveted No. 1 spot and claim the school record, Schwartz has to best the 16-4 3/4 standard set by Finnish transfer student Esa Sallinen, who set the mark at a Foothill League meet at Birmingham High in 1994.

Schwartz thinks he has the record jump in him.

"I know it is a pretty big jump from second to first," said Schwartz, who receives instruction from longtime UCLA Coach Anthony Curran. "But that just makes me want to try that much harder to get that school record. My goal this year is actually 16-6. I'm just hoping that I can get up that high."

Mike McHorney has seen his share of talented pole vaulters come through Burroughs, first as an athlete for the Indians and as the pole vault coach for the past 25 years. He is good friends with Ron Morris, a Burroughs graduate who won a silver medal at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympic Games. McHorney was also coaching Sallinen when he set the Burroughs record.

The coach believes Schwartz has the potential to vault to the top spot.

"I was hoping that he could get the school record before he's finished," McHorney said. "He has the potential and could possibly do it.

"Matt is a real student of the sport. When he jumps he usually has kids there taking video of his jumps on his phone. Then Matt will go back and watch them to see what he did wrong or what he needs to improve on. He is someone who is very dedicated to the sport."

Along with being a student of the sport, Schwartz is also a fine student in the classroom, as he has better than a 4.0 grade-point average and takes three advanced placement classes.

After taking up pole vaulting at Luther Burbank Middle School, Schwartz joined the track and field team at Burroughs. He also competed in basketball, football and baseball for the Indians. However, when he began to find success in the pole vault, he dropped the other sports to concentrate on the event.

"Along with being a good student, Matt is just a good all-around athlete," Burroughs Coach John Peebles said. "In the last year or so he's really become very passionate about the pole vault. It is that passion that has really driven him the last year and especially this season. And what he's been able to do shows all the hard work that he's put in.

"It's been great to see his progression. In the beginning of the year he went something like 14-10 up at Reno [at the 2014 National Pole Vault Summit in January] and he has been steadily progressing."

With the possibility of six more meets in front of him — if he is able to progress to the CIF State Meet — Schwartz has the opportunity to continue that progression.

"I just want to keep going as long as I can," said Schwartz, who has yet to make his college choice. "I have been really feeling good and I know that I have a lot left in me. Hopefully I can get even higher and leave Burroughs with that record. That would be awesome."


Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.

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