TACOMA - Mount Baker pole vaulter Nathan Dunford is a true testament to what a little hard work can do.
Last year Dunford's personal best was 13 feet, and he didn't earn a place at state. But he trained all winter long with Dick Henry - a local coach from the Bellingham area - and Dunford's preparation paid off in a big way, as he cleared a mark of 15-00.00 to claim a 2A state title during the 2A-3A-4A Washington State Track and Field Championships Friday, May 25, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
Dunford, who entered the state meet with the top mark in 2A, beamed with confidence after learning he was a state champion, rather than showing a tremendous amount of emotion.
"It feels good," said Dunford calmly. "I just love to pole vault. I love it. I practiced all winter with Dick Henry in Bellingham."
On hand to witness the title win was one of Mount Baker's pole vaulting coaches and the most successful Mount Baker pole vaulter up to this year - Kas Tommila - who set the Mountaineers' vault school record of 15-00.00 in 2001.
"He has absolutely blew up this year," Tommila said. "He's one of those athletes you just have to say something to once."
Tommila's record stood 11 years until Dunford beat it, clearing a height of 15-03.00 earlier this season.
Anacortes' Craig Jones pushed Dunford the best he could in the final, clearing a height of 14-06.00. But the Mount Baker standout pole vaulter matched Jones' 14-06.00 mark and, with his next jump, cleared 15-00.00 to an applause of the many spectators watching.
Mount Baker's other pole vault coach DJ Brown also praised Dunford for his work all season long.
"I'm just thrilled to have Nathan as an athlete," Brown said. "He's a true scholar athlete. When you talk to him, he'll tell you what's going on. He can coach himself."
Dunford's, coupled with Webber's win in the girls' pole vault, gives Whatcom County a sweep of the 2A pole vault event.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.