Walker Texas Ranger - Van Kirk Wins Pole Vault

At six-foot-four, and sporting a cowboy hat, it was easy to spot Jamestown's Walker Van Kirk from 50 feet away at the Tolsma Track Center in Lynchburg.

Last Tuesday, Van Kirk was relaxing, but the day before, the Eagle senior had launched himself 15-7 into the air and over the fiberglass bar within the Liberty University facility to earn the state's top vault of 2021-22 and easily win the pole vault by over two and a half feet.

Sophomore Todd Benhase of Hanover was second with a 13-foot clearance, while Tyler Torbush of Louisa County placed third at 12-6.

Van Kirk's win was so decisive that he didn't take his first jump until the bar had reached 14 feet. But by then, the entire field had been eliminated, with Benhase going out at 13-6.

Free of challengers and entering the competition with a best vault of 15 feet, all he had to do was complete one clearance

And on the first try at 14 feet - he missed.

"I wasn't too worried," said Van Kirk, who admitted that in the past, he would get overexcited and had to work on staying calm during his vaults.

With renewed focus, Van Kirk would clear 14 on his next attempt, and then 15 feet on his second attempt, then finally 15-7 on his final vault, before eliminating at 16 feet.

But back to the hat.

"I like the way it looks," said the senior. When questioned about his potential college choices, it became apparent that his newfound headwear may come in handy. "During the Thanksgiving break, I took my visits to Rice and Baylor. But Virginia Tech is on the list."

Final three?


There is room for improvement for Van Kirk, which should be good news for any college coach whose team lands him. He has come a long way from the freshman who cleared 7-6 at his first meet.

His friend introduced him to the vault as an eighth grader, and both eventually became part of the Aim High team, based out of the Richmond area in Mechanicsville, where he trains with Kyle Bishop, Eric Sandridge, and on occasion, former Air Force Academy and Lafayette High vaulter Kathryn Tomczak, who cleared 14 feet while competing with the Falcons.

But Van Kirk, whose lone event is the pole vault, realizes that he needs to improve his speed. "I'm not super-fast but do everything else pretty well."

Next up for Van Kirk - choosing a college (if he goes to Rice or Baylor, the nickname Walker, Texas Ranger would seem to fit). Clearing 16 feet will be high on the checklist, followed by breaking the Aim High best mark, which is currently held by Harrison Rice at 16-5.25.