Beginner’s luck didn’t factor into Jacob Ballain’s first season as a high school pole vaulter.
The Whiteland sophomore, who didn’t clear the opening height in his first official competition in March, placed 20th at Friday’s IHSAA State Track and Field Meet.
For three months, Ballain literally has been raising the bar.
“For a first-year pole vaulter to make it to the state finals, I don’t want to say it’s unheard of, but it’s pretty much unheard of,” Warriors coach Brandon Bangel said. “Jacob is a very explosive athlete, but also a very smart kid.
“It would be hard to say how many hours of videos he’s watched on pole vaulting just on his own. He’s really into the event.”
A placekicker for Whiteland’s football team, Ballain last fall converted 36 of 40 point-after attempts and converted all three field goal tries. His 14 punts produced an average 31.9 yards with 22 of his kickoffs being touchbacks.
Ballain’s decision to expand his sports repertoire came to be about a year after first planned.
“I had been meaning to do track. I would walk out and see the pole vaulters practicing and thought it looked like a lot of fun. That’s what made me want to do it,” he said. “I no-heighted my first meet, so I really wasn’t expecting much. I thought I would just be average.
“But I started working hard and had a lot of good people supporting me, and I got a lot better.”
In April, Ballain came in third at the Johnson County Meet at Franklin Community High School, but continued improving to where he was the champion at the Mid-State Conference Meet, clearing 12 feet.
He stamped his ticket for the state finals by finishing third at the Connersville Regional with a personal-best of 13-1.
Ballain managed to clear 13 feet at at the state finals. He’s got two more track seasons to accomplish this and more, including the school record of 14-9 held by 2014 state finalist Cole Wuest.
“It was a really fun experience being here, but the fact I didn’t get my PR makes me want to come back and do a lot better next year,” Ballain said.
Worth the wait for Hendricks
Franklin’s Tyler Hendricks was among the senior athletes who qualified for state for the first – and last – time.
He placed 20th of 26 in the shot put with a best of 49-3¼.
“I’m a little disappointed. I really wanted to do better, but I made it here and that’s an achievement in itself,” Hendricks said. “I’m just looking forward to the future.”
Hendricks is going to attend Franklin College. Undecided on a major, he said he knows he’ll be a member of the Grizzlies men’s track and field program, possibly performing the hammer throw and javelin.
Looking around at the stadium’s filled bleachers, Hendricks said the wait was definitely worth it.
“Most definitely. Most people I’ve ever seen at a track meet, for sure. A lot more distractions than the typical meet,” he said. “This was something I was looking forward to doing, and I finally did it.”
THE BALLAIN FILE
Name: Jacob Ballain
Born: Omaha, Nebraska
Family: Parents, Matt and Amy; sister, Julia, 18
Favorite TV show: “Family Guy”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “Shooter”
Favorite athlete: Sam Kendricks
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts