Whiteland senior Jacob Ballain finds himself in unfamiliar territory as the Warriors’ track and field season approaches.
In February, Ballain, a placekicker for the Warriors’ football program the past four years, signed a national letter of intent to play at Northern Illinois University.
His focus now shifted ever so slightly, Ballain’s burning desire to be one of the state’s premier pole vaulters had been dialed down a few degrees.
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This isn’t to imply he lacks motivation.
“Basically, my main goal is I want to break our school record,” Ballain said, referring to the Whiteland pole vault standard of 14 feet, 9 inches presently shared by Hunter Swails and Cole Wuest.
“I would really like to get to 15 feet.”
As a sophomore, Ballain advanced to the state track and field meet at Indiana University, finishing 20th with a best vault of 13 feet.
Last spring, after winning the Whiteland Sectional with a best of 14 feet, Ballain’s season came to an abrupt halt when he failed to make it out of the Franklin Regional. Trying to adjust to using a lengthier pole in less-than-ideal weather conditions, Ballain managed to clear a top height of only 13 feet.
“A day or two before the regional I broke the pole I was using, so we went up a pole size,” Ballain said. “And the weather conditions that day bothered me quite a bit.”
This past fall on the gridiron, Ballain converted 8 of 11 field-goal tries and made all but two of his 39 point-after attempts. His accurate right foot was responsible for a total of 23 field goals and 120 conversion boots over his Warriors football career.
Also Whiteland’s punter from the outset of the 2014 season, Ballain averaged a career-best 39.2 yards as a senior.
Coach Brandon Bangel’s track program, presently immersed in the indoor portion of its season, competes outdoors for the first time March 20 when Whiteland hosts Perry Meridian in a girls and boys dual meet.
The boys state meet is scheduled for June 2. Two weeks later, Ballain leaves for Northern Illinois to begin taking summer classes.
Bangel understands and appreciates that football now comes first with Ballain.
Nonetheless, he won’t be surprised if Ballain’s final act as a Whiteland student-athlete takes place at IU’s Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex.
“Jacob is still incredibly committed to pole vaulting and to track,” Bangel said. “He’s really focused and wants to get back to state and on the (awards) podium.
“In terms of practice, he really looks good. We anticipate him being a 15-foot pole vaulter this season. He has all the potential.”
Name: Jacob Ballain
Born: Omaha, Nebraska
Family: Parents Matt and Amy; sister Julia, 20
Favorite TV show: “Family Guy”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite athlete: Pat McAfee
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts