Walsh brings WNHS first state championship
Years from now, when people look back at the history of Woodstock North High School, the date May 26, 2012, will hold significance. On that date, just three years after WNHS started competitive athletics, senior Jon Walsh became the school’s first athlete to win an IHSA state championship when he cleared 15 feet, 6 inches in pole vault at the Class 2A state championship in Charleston. His vault matched his personal best set earlier in the season.
“It’s awesome,” said WNHS athletic director Nic Kearfott. “It’s a great thing for the school. It’s a great thing for Jon.”
“It’s been a great ride,” said WNHS head coach John Fredericks. “Having a new school and a sport that has been there for three years, to have a state champ is surreal.”
Walsh was seeded in the top three pole-vaulters in Class 2A at the competition but almost didn’t make it to the finals. He struggled in the preliminaries May 25 with the heat and his pole and was one of the last two contestants to qualify.
“On Friday I didn’t really feel nervous, but the heat was definitely getting to me,” Walsh said. “The pole wasn’t working as efficiently as I wanted it to. It was over-bending. It was just really a bad day.”
“[Jon] did not perform well Friday,” Fredericks said. “Jon did not clear 14-3, and I wasn’t sure if he would make it. … We waited for the longest time to see if he would make it. …
A lot of it came down to the weather. It was very hot down there, and Jon’s pole was bending more than he was used to.”
The track was open after Friday’s competition, and Walsh and Fredericks made the most of the time putting in about an hour of practice.
“Coach told me I was running really slow, and I wasn’t getting off the pole,” Walsh said. “I took about 10 attempts at the pit and built my confidence up for the next day. The next morning I felt pretty confident and was just happy to be there, knowing I made it into the finals.”
Walsh also had qualified for state in high jump and triple jump, but he and Fredericks decided to scratch him from the events as one of his legs had been bothering him after the triple jump at the sectional tournament.
“It wasn’t worth it to have him triple jump and high jump when he was seeded as one of the top three pole-vaulters, so he focused all his energy there,” Fredericks said. “After the way he performed Friday, we were questioning the decision, but it worked out.”
The other issue Walsh needed to resolve was the over-bending of his pole. Walsh’s pole was rated at 175 pounds, and he felt he needed one to handle 180 pounds. His brother, Josh, was able to locate a pole for him, and his father, John, purchased it and got it to the tournament in time for the finals on the 26th.
According to Fredericks, it normally takes two to three weeks to break in a new pole, and most athletes would be affected by making such a sudden change, but “these are things that don’t affect Jon while they bother other people.”
“From a terrible Friday to getting a little bit of practice in and getting confidence to working with a new pole to winning a state championship is unreal,” Fredericks said. “Most kids could not deal with it, but Jon just pushes it away.”
Walsh used his old pole in the finals up to 14 feet, and, after that, he used the new pole.
“I warmed up with it, and it felt good,” Walsh said. “It wasn’t over-bending. … Definitely everyone was against me getting a new pole, but it actually worked out.”
Winning the state championship was Walsh’s goal all season, and he made sure his coach knew his objective. After winning, however, Walsh said he had a strange reaction.
“I’ve been thinking about this all season,” Walsh said. “I’ve been telling my coach that I was training to win state. I thought I would be more excited. I thought I would go crazy, but after they told me that I had won, I was just chill. … I think when I get older maybe it will set in. Inside I know what happened and feel great about it, but there hasn’t been any outside feelings shown.”
Next up for Walsh is college. He had hoped to hear from multiple schools but has only talked with Illinois State University. The coaching staff at ISU is interested in making Jon a decathlete and has a visit scheduled with him in the next few weeks.
“I think I have my heart set on ISU,” Walsh said. “I’ll probably end up going there.”
In the end, Walsh said he is happy the competition is behind him.
“It’s definitely a great feeling inside knowing that I accomplished the goal I had been trying to get all year,” Walsh said. “It felt like the whole world was lifted from my shoulders.”