By Alex Byington
Harker Heights Herald
Regan Gilbert is passionate about pole vaulting. But he freely admits that wasn't always the case.
In fact, Gilbert was pegged as a lost cause after his first week of training with local renowned vaulting coach Jack Chapman before his freshman year at Harker Heights.
"When I started going to coach Jack, I didn't really want to go out there because pole vaulting wasn't a big deal to me then," Gilbert said. "But after the first week, (Chapman) told my dad he didn't think I had what it took to be a pole vaulter.
"So when my dad told me that, I guess I just wanted to prove him wrong, so I did."
That drive has translated to bigger and bigger heights, and last week it earned the Knights senior a partial track and field scholarship to pole vault at the University of Kansas, signing his letter of intent on Feb. 15.
"I'm really excited to go to college in pole vault, because I would hate to have to stop after this year," Gilbert said following a signing ceremony Feb. 17 at the Harker Heights field house.
It's a big step for the skinny kid that showed up to his first day to training at Texas Elite Pole Vaulting wearing jeans.
"He was pathetic," Chapman said of his initial reaction to Gilbert. "He was clumsy, he had no coordination. ... He wasn't strong, he wasn't fast. He had none of the attributes to be a vaulter. None."
Gilbert cleared 6-6 starting out in the seventh grade and improved his personal record by more than three feet over the first several months with Chapman. He advanced to the Region II meet as a freshman after clearing 12 feet at the district meet. But his sophomore year, Gilbert suffered a devastating set-back when his pole shattered on his first attempt at the District 12-5A meet and no-heighted on his final two attempts.
Last year, Gilbert finally cleared the 16-foot mark that eluded him all season, but clipped the bar at 16-3 on the way down during a jump-off for silver and finished third at the Region II-5A meet, narrowly missing a trip to state.
"All the time, I'm just trying to get better and make sure there's no way I can lose, because I don't want to stay home during state," Gilbert said.