LAKEWOOD RANCH — From the moment Tre Gregory sets foot onto the track, The Out-of-Door Academy sophomore begins sizing up his competition.
But Gregory’s competition is unlike any other.
Rather than focusing on the other competitors, Gregory turns his attention to a single bar lying motionless some 11 feet, 6 inches in the air.
With every six inches it climbs, the bar holds the key to Gregory’s fate. It will determine whether a new school record is reached or a regional berth is solidified.
“The hardest part about pole vaulting is getting over the bar,” Gregory says. “It’s like a habit now. I don’t really think about it. I just do it.”
This season, Gregory has been on the positive end of both scenarios, having set new personal bests and school records in three meets this season.
On March 26, Gregory cleared 13-0 to win his first Sarasota County championship.
“The last three meets, I had been stuck on 12-6 and I couldn’t get past it,” Gregory says. “It was like a sigh of relief because I finally did it.”
Gregory followed up his Sarasota County championship with a second-place finish in the Class 1A-District 10 meet April 11, at ODA.
With his runner-up finish, Gregory earned a berth in the Region 3 meet April 18. A top-four finish there and Gregory will advance to the state meet for the first time.
“My main goal is to get to states,” Gregory says. “I’m not set on a certain height. I never have been. It would just show that all of my hard work paid off if I made it to states.”
Gregory began pole vaulting midway through eighth grade. ODA didn’t have a pole vault coach at the time, and nobody on the team knew anything about the event.
But that didn’t deter Gregory from grabbing a pole and flinging himself into the air.
“I found it interesting,” Gregory says. “I liked the idea of flying through the air. It sort of came naturally to me.
“It wasn’t really that scary,” he says. “I’ve never been scared of heights.”
Gregory has suffered bumps and bruises, including a mild concussion, along the way, but his slight run-ins with the bar simply come with the territory.
He started at 8-0 and cleared 10-6 by the end of his first year. Last season, Gregory cleared 11-0 and has since added two feet to his personal best.
But, for Gregory, personal bests and school records are merely stepping stones to reaching his ultimate goal of reaching the state meet.
“I don’t really think about the actual record,” Gregory says. “Every time I reach a certain height, I push myself to get to the next height. That’s my goal every meet.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.