POULSBO — North Kitsap junior Aaron Bilbao vaulted himself into the school’s record books on April 25 in Tacoma as he cleared 13 feet 7 inches in the pole vault.
The previous record was set by Ray Parson, who topped 13 feet, 6 inches in 1974.
What makes the feat even more impressive, is that Bilbao didn’t touch a pole until last year. Vikings assistant coach Bruce Swanson said he knew Bilbao had potential, but didn’t know was that he would realize it so soon.
“I really didn’t think he would break the record this season. He was brand new to vaulting last year,” Swanson said. “For him to pick it up this fast, it hardly ever happens.”
Ironically, Swanson coached Parsons when he set the school record 33 years ago.
“It’s exciting to see Aaron break the record,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a more enthusiastic hard working athlete to work with.”
Bilbao said he doesn’t believe he’s peaked at 13 feet, 7 inches. He thinks he can shatter his own mark this year.
“My goal is to get to 15 feet. I am putting in a lot of work right now. I am working hard at practice everyday to keep getting better,” Bilbao said. “I have some really good coaches.”
Swanson said Bilbao’s goal of extending his record is an attainable one.
“I think he has a very good chance to do it,” Swanson said. “I think he will at least get to 14 feet in districts or at state. He’s got the capability.”
A tireless work ethic sets Bilbao apart from his counterparts in the Narrows League, he added.
“Aaron is a fast learner. Pole vault is the most technical sport in track and field,” Swanson said. “He has great technique and he applies it so well. If he doesn’t know exactly what to do, he will always ask questions to clarify. He takes advice from the coaches.”
Bilbao said the most important aspect of vaulting is staying consistent each time down the runway.
“This is an event where you want to do the exact same thing the same way every time,” he said. “Technique is so important. Everything else goes from there. It’s like riding a bike. The more you do it, it becomes subconscious.”
Competing in the pole vault is an exhilarating experience for Bilbao as well.
“When I land on the mat it’s either a feeling of, I did it, or it’s a feeling of disappointment because I knocked the bar down,” he said. “The only time it gets scary is when you’re on a new pole and you don’t know if you’re going to land on the mat.”
Throughout the season, Bilbao hasn’t shown any fear while using different poles in various competitions. “He’s made the transition to different poles very well,” Swanson said. “One time he went through three poles in one meet. Nothing gets to him.”
Swanson said Bilbao’s positive attitude is a major reason why he was able to break a record that stood for three decades.
“Aaron has such a love for the sport. He’s very confident. Athletes have to have confidence and believe they can do it to perform,” he said. “He talked the talk and walked the walk.”