Rising JHS ninth grade pole vaulter sets sights on USA Jr. Olympics
It's almost by accident that rising Jefferson High School freshman Mason Hamrick pole vaults today.
While in middle school, he chose to run track and field to, well, run. The field events were an afterthought.
“I didn’t have one (a field event), so I walked over here,” Hamrick said Thursday, standing next to the JHS pole vaulting pit, “and I kind of got sucked in.”
Hamrick hasn’t slowed since.
After a year of participation in the pole vault, the 14-year-old Hamrick heads to the USA Track and Field Regionals in Greensboro, N.C. where he’ll compete Sunday for a coveted spot in the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics later this month in Sacramento, Calif. Next spring, he plans to join the defending state champion Jefferson High School track team, which just graduated a three-time state pole vaulting champion, Tyler Porter.
Hamrick is already setting the bar high for his own prep career.
“I’m going to try to win state and be a four-timer,” he said.
Hamrick has been plenty busy leading up to this point.
He has yet to lose in a career that spans between 20 to 30 events. Included in that stretch is winning the pole vault in the first-ever Georgia middle school state track meet in April and then winning in the June 20 USA Track and Field Junior Olympics Association Championship Meet at Westlake High School in Atlanta. That victory qualified him for the regional meet in Greensboro.
“It’s just really fun,” Hamrick said. “It’s really a rush.”
Hamrick’s personal-best vault is 12-6, a mark he’ll try to better in Greensboro.
If he qualifies for the national junior Olympics, he hopes to be up to 13 feet.
Hamrick trains seven days a week for about an hour and a half and credits Gary Porter (Tyler Porter’s father), Lee Roper (a former college pole vaulter) and his father with his development in the sport. The champ himself, Tyler Porter, has also been a big influence.
Making this all the more impressive is that Hamrick currently practices with a broken foot. The injury occurred on Memorial Day during a vault in which he cleared 13 feet but came in too shallow, which made for a bad landing.
“It’s pretty tough,” Hamrick said. “It hurts a lot and it takes a lot of drive. But I just love it that much. It’s something I don’t want to quit.”
So with only one good foot, Hamrick will take his unbeaten streak to Greensboro where he’ll go up against competitors as old as 16.
If he places in the top four of his age division, he’ll go to California. He knows the challenge ahead of him.
“It’s going to really get in my head,” Hamrick said of the older competition. “But I think I can do it. I hope I can.”