Stone Cold: The story of pole vaulter Nathan Stone

F or junior Nathan Stone, he had no idea that his high school experience would involve him qualifying for nationals in pole vaulting his sophomore and junior years.
“I started pole vaulting my freshman year. My football coach told me, ‘Hey, go pole vault,’ and that was really it,” Stone said.
However, it wasn’t until after he started that he learned that his dad pole vaulted while in school as well, drawing a connection to the sport for Stone.
Although Stone qualified for the national championship last year, he could not attend. Since then, Stone has gotten the chances to compete in the indoor championship two months ago and outdoor championship in North Carolina in June this year.
“I didn’t perform my best in the first nationals because the environment is so different and the adrenaline is more than I’m used to, but now I am competing a little bit better and I’m used to it,” Stone said.
Although they make a distinction for the championships, there is not much of a difference between indoor and outdoor meets. According to Stone, having the wind makes indoor competitions a bit tougher.
Having competed with Stone since their freshman year, junior Carolyn Bakx has seen Stone grow into the athlete that he is today.
“As he progresses, I progress and we kinda go back and forth. He will PR and I will PR. It helps that we are the same age since we hit our targets at the same time. So it gives you a partner,” Bakx said.
Bakx has made a formidable duo with Stone, winning sectionals last year herself and setting the school record for girls during last season at Lawrence North.
“Nathan makes me work a lot harder. Having him around, he makes it easier to go after my goals. He’s a great teammate,” Bakx said.
Stone and Bakx are joined by freshman Aspen Villas on the team, who is also on her first season as a pole vaulter, as Bakx and Stone were two years ago.
“Pole vaulting with Nathan is so much fun. He helps everyone out, he motivates everyone and he’s always in a great mood. So it’s just great positivity from him all the time,” Villas said.
Unlike many sports, the boys and girls pole vaulting teams almost always compete and practice together, allowing the pole vaulters to bond while in many sports the two genders would practice individually.
The advantage of practicing with Stone allows Villas to see him as a mentor and learn from him the skills he has picked up while competing at such a high level.
“He has been a mentor to me. Whenever I’m struggling with a set, he will help me with them. He’s also really determined and hard working. I’ve learned a lot from that, ” Villas said.
After Stone graduates school, he hopes to compete on a big stage and continue his career.
“There are professional pole vaulters. There are things called diamond meets and you can get cash prizes. There’s a kid in high school right now and he’s the best ever, a senior in Louisiana, and he competes professionally as a high schooler. He won $15,000 getting third in a professional meet so that’s ridiculous. That’s the goal. Getting into diamond meets and world championships would be really cool,” Stone said.
Although it may seem like a daunting task to play two rigorous sports like football and pole vaulting, Stone embraces the challenge, attempting to compete at both sports at a high level.
“When start I track season, I leave football really early and start training on my muscles to get back in pole vaulting in November. I go straight through to the summer and I’ll usually do some summer camps. The two sports really keep me busy,” Stone said.
However, the amount of training needed for them can be overwhelming, given the extensive workouts of both physically demanding sports.
“It’s just hours and hours of practice. Practices sometimes go real late until lile 11:30. I work out in the gym all day with really no breaks throughout the year. It’s lots of working on different muscle groups that you wouldn’t work out in any other sport for pole vaulting,” Stone said.
Stone points to his future ambitions as driving forces for him currently trying as hard as he does.
“I’m working towards the Olympics. My own personal goals and my competition are my motivation. I’m a really competitive person and it is really fun for me to compete with other people and to beat them,” Stone said.