(WHTM) — When Hershey’s Justin Rogers switched from competing in gymnastics to pole vaulting as a freshman in high school, he knew he had found his niche. And not only because he had a natural talent for it.
“Nobody is really crazy enough to do it, except for me so immediately I started seeing success because nobody else really just wants to grab this giant pole and just run,” Rogers laughed.
Success is an understatement. Rogers admitted that when he started pole vaulting, he thought he’d be average at it and just compete to have fun.
Three years later, what’s now fun for the senior is clearing a 17 feet, 1-inch bar to become Pennsylvania’s new all-time pole vaulting record holder. He achieved the feat earlier this month in a dual meet with Susquehanna.
“To think nobody who has ever come before me has ever jumped higher is absolutely absurd to just think about. I mean, I am the standard now of PA pole vault. It’s crazy to think that my name is written in history like that, but I sure am glad it is,” Rogers smiled.
Rogers’ new record leap breaks the 2018 mark set by Charles Dever by one inch.
“He just electrifies the crowd and every meet he’s in, he’s focused, he’s determined and he’s always going for records and there’s never a time he backs off,” said Hershey head track and field coach Kevin Stover of Rogers.
What’s even more remarkable was that Rogers broke the state record at the meet after competing in the long jump, the 100-meter dash and directly after running in the 4×100 meter relay. He knew his legs were tired, so his last bit of energy came from an unlikely source.
“Sour Patch Kids on meet day, that’s my secret,” Rogers said. “I missed my first attempt at 16 (feet) 1 (inch) and then the second one, I don’t know what happened, but I got this sudden burst of energy. It must have been the Sour Patch.”
“I swear my mind just zones completely out. I have no idea what’s going on. The motions just do it for themselves, but then as soon as I finish the jump and I push off the top and I’m over a bar, it’s immediately like ‘oh my god’ and snap back to reality.”
Rogers’ state record is the fourth highest jump in the nation to date this year. For the University of Virginia commit, sometimes he can’t believe his new reality.
“I got recognized by our lunch lady today because she saw me on TV for the (John) Travers Award and I was like ‘this is absolutely absurd, I do track I’m a pole vaulter a pole vaulter,'” laughed Rogers. ” To be able to say I go to Hershey, it’s a huge blessing. A great school system, great people, great community. To be able to represent well and do my best is absolutely incredible.”
Not bad for a Hershey athlete who started pole vaulting to be average and have fun.