Davis Patterson found out the best way to find his own niche on the Evanston track team was to try something no one else at the school has done for the past decade.
He may not make history — but it won’t be for a lack of effort.
The first pole vaulter of note in at least 10 years at ETHS, Patterson cleared 12 feet in his specialty and accounted for one of Evanston’s 10 first place finishes Friday night as the Wildkits repeated as team champions at the Thornton Classic Invitational meet.
In less than a calendar year, Patterson has improved 5 feet and is taking aim at a trip to the Illinois High School Association state finals. The ETHS junior jumped a personal best 12 feet in competition twice last week and could threaten the school record of 14 feet, 10 inches set by Mike Fuller back in 1967 by the time he graduates.
The fact that he has no coach, except for his father Todd, and no outdoor facility to practice at makes the challenge only more enticing, according to Patterson.
“I just appreciate what I’ve had to work with so far,” Patterson said. “My Dad has been an amazing help to me. He’s led me through it all even though he’s still learning just like I am. I’ve always loved track and field even though I haven’t done that well as a runner. I wanted to find a way to fit in on the track team. I’m a wrestler so I did have the upper body strength for it, and I knew I could get a spot as a pole vaulter if I worked at it.
“I wanted to start vaulting last year but Coach (head coach Don Michelin) said I had to go to a camp and learn some basic skills before I tried it. So I went to a camp at the College of DuPage and learned how to hold the pole and how to run with it. I started out at 7 feet and I ended up at 11 before the end of the indoor season. I’ve watched a lot of tape of high school and professional vaulters and I’m always comparing that with my own tapes and looking to see what the differences are.
“The pole vault community and a lot of people have been very happy to help me. At the meet Friday a coach from Homewood-Flossmoor was talking to me about turning before I get over the standard, for example. Now I’m thinking about what I’ll need to do to be a college track athlete. I just keep setting goals for myself, and once I achieve them, I try to set new goals.”
“It has to be back to the 1980s the last time had guys go that high,” Michelin said. “It started when Davis went 11-7 at the Wheaton South meet (Red Grange Invitational) and now it’s serious now that he’s at 12 feet. You need a special guy to be a pole vaulter, someone who’s not afraid to be up that high and to be upside down, too. You need a combination of speed and athletic ability and there’s a lot that goes into it.
“I give Davis and his Dad a lot of credit. This is what he really wants to do and my hat’s off to him for his determination. He’s tried wrestling and he’s tried cross country, and he kept running into a numbers game with guys ahead of him in other (track) events. But this seems to be his passion, and you can’t help but rally around a guy like him.”
“I just joined track to do a spring sport — and I ended up loving it,” Patterson added. “Track tests your will to improve every week, and I love working hard. This is a perfect fit for me.”
At Thornton, Evanston piled up 175 points and eased to the team title over H-F (116.75). Also in the field were Thornton (80), Rich Central (39), Crete-Monee (38.75), Brother Rice (37), Thornridge (33.5) and Oak Forest (30).
Besides Patterson, individual winners for the Wildkits included Morgan Brown, 135 feet 5 inches in the discus throw; Christian Nielsen, 50-2 in the shot put; Jonathan Wilburn, 44-2 in the triple jump; Brad Garron, 22.05 in the 200-meter dash; Joey Eovaldi, 4:50.83 in the 1600; Brian Daniels, 40.17 in the 300 hurdles; Logan Singer, 2:00.03 in the 800; and Max Ebeling, 10:24.26 in the 3200.
Evanston added its only relay win in the 3200, where the unit of Julion Michelin, Eovaldi, Nick Baumann and Sam Bergman was clocked in 8:40.09.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.