One day after finishing fourth in the men's pole vault in a personal-best 15 feet, 3¼ inches at the NJCAA National Indoor Track and Field Championships, Hagerstown Community College freshman Jacob Pryor had one thing on his mind.
"He's already planning for 11 weeks from now," Hawks head coach Mike Spinnler said. "He's pumped. He asked me when we're practicing again and I said Tuesday."
What's in 11 weeks? That would be the NJCAA outdoor nationals, and as a newly crowned All-American, Pryor has more big goals to pursue — including the 16-foot mark.
"I qualified for outdoors and I'm already seeded third at the moment," Pryor said. "I'm really happy about it. … I don't like resting."
He did, however, take a few moments to reflect.
Pryor won a Maryland Class 1A state title outdoors as a senior at Smithsburg High School in 2015, clearing 13 feet. He started his first collegiate season with a jump of 13-9¼, then followed up with an effort of 14-7¼ to qualify for indoor nationals.
He entered nationals as the 11th seed, needing to finish in the top 10 to earn All-American honors.
"It's a very intimidating experience at nationals, especially the first time, and he had never flown on a plane before," Spinnler said. "He's up against elite athletes across the country, seeing them warm up by jumping 16 feet, and a lot of people don't handle that well. But he did. He focused on his technique."
"It was getting me more excited," Pryor said of warmups. "I love competition, so seeing those guys jump just as high as I was, it made me look forward to a great competition."
Pryor had a secret weapon: A new pole he acquired just eight days earlier.
"It was a big factor in my success," Pryor said. "The first four days I practiced on it, it kicked my butt. I couldn't get it to work, but that's how it is with new poles. The last two practices before the meet, I got it to work and I knew it could take me to great heights."
Pryor cleared the opening height of 14-3 on his first attempt. He did the same at 14-9 — surpassing his PR in the process — and stayed hot when he got over the bar at 15-3¼ without any misses to that point. He set the HCC indoor school record in the process.
"With this particular competition, attempts and misses were crucial," Pryor said. "I knew making my first attempts would benefit me in the long run. Once I cleared them, it was a big relief."
"He put the pressure on a lot of those guys who were wondering, 'Who is this guy?'" Spinnler said.
"His attempts at 15-7 were so close, and if he had cleared that, he'd have been second."
Mesa freshman Kasey Burlingham won the national title by clearing 17-1. Cloud County sophomore Chance Chrisman and Vincennes sophomore Jordan Downs were second and third, each clearing 15-7.