Zachary Frye is a senior at Lake Park High School in Roselle, Illinois, and a University of Louisville recruit. Before his outdoor track and field season was canceled, Frye was hoping to repeat as Illinois' Class 3A champion in the pole vault, where he earned a PR of 15-6 in 2019. Over the indoor season, he raised that mark to 16-feet. In this Dear Pole Vaulting essay, Frye examines his time in the sport and thanks the people who helped him along the way.
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"These struggles taught me that even when it gets tough, quitting is not the answer. When the passion is lost, you can get it back. When the fire is extinguished, it is possible for it to be lit once again."
By Zachary Frye - Lake Park High School
Dear Pole Vaulting,
Man, I miss the feeling of flying. The main reason I walked into practice day-in and day-out was the adrenaline rush. It's an incomparable feeling to run down the runway and propel yourself to the sky. Perhaps the momentary pause at the peak of the jump is where I enjoy the event the most. It's at this point of almost weightlessness, that I can appreciate how high I have flown. I cannot wait to get back to it. But with the cancellation of the track season, I have begun to realize how much of a passion I have for the sport. Through the many successes and the many failures, sticking with pole vault has changed my life.
Failure has formed me into the track athlete and person that I am. My crowning achievement as a pole-vaulter was when I won a state championship my junior year. But, the road leading to that moment was not without its failures and shortcomings. I came in fourth-place at Indoor Conference, seventh-place at Illinois Top Times, and fourth-place at Outdoor Conference. Two poles broke on me. And a month long slump hit me like a truck.
These events really made me wonder:
Is this really what I want to be doing?
But it was a question that was answered when I grinded my way out of the slump, forced myself back on to the poles, and won my sectional and state meets.
This taught me one thing:
These struggles taught me that even when it gets tough, quitting is not the answer. When the passion is lost, you can get it back. When the fire is extinguished, it is possible for it to be lit once again. When things go wrong, you have to be resilient and bounce back. I took a miss at each height leading up to the winning mark at state. When it came down to the final height, I made it on my first attempt. My opponent made it on the second. I took 13 jumps that day, the most out of all the competitors.
Being resilient was the sole reason I won that day. Being resilient is the sole reason I'm still competing.
Track and field has taught me to be thankful. My coaches at Lake Park High School have made me stronger and more athletic. But more importantly, they have taught me how to be a better person. I'd be remiss to not mention those coaches who have helped me these past four years.
Coach Doug Juraska: Thank you for teaching me the event of Pole Vault and putting as much time into the sport as I do. Your advice helps me be successful each time I get on the runway. Your experience coaching seven state champions (Olympians and Division I athletes among them) has been an invaluable resource to me.
Coach Tom Kaberna: Thank you for getting me into the weight room. The speed and strength helps me put more energy into the pole. You preach mental toughness, and I believe your attitude and energy has made me tougher and more confident.
Coach Pacione: Just like Coach Kaberna, you got me into the weight room. But, I thank you for the immense support and advice you have given me. I know that I'll always have you in my corner.
And thank you, pole vault, for the opportunities I've had and the people I've met. Because of this sport, I've been able to meet wonderful coaches and athletes from across the country. I've been able to visit the best colleges in the country. The camaraderie and positivity from the track and field community won't be forgotten when I hang up the spikes for the final time. And because of my parents, coaches, and resiliency, I have the opportunity to compete at the University of Louisville.
I can't wait to be taught more lessons by the sport and the people I'll meet.
CONTRIBUTE TO THIS SERIES
For whatever your passion, be it running, jumping, throwing, hurdling, et cetera, if you are a track and field and/or cross country athlete or coach interested in contributing to this series, please firstname.lastname@example.org.