Bentz Insurance provides premier coverage for farm, ranch, business, home, and auto.
John L. Braese
TROUT LAKE – Small, rural communities typically possess an identity-a family café known to all, a team 27 years ago that won a state title or a farm/business remaining in the same family for five generations. For Trout Lake, Washington, the legacy of the area may well be that of success in pole vaulting.
The Mustangs are one of a handful of Washington teams in the OSAA and compete in the 1A Special District 3 in track and field and the 1A Big Sky League in other sports. The district is comprised of 195 students, kindergarten through 12 and boasts a team of 20 to 25 student athletes on the high school track and field team.
The Mustangs first caught the attention of EOS at last year’s state track meet. Then freshman Sawyer Dean was crowned state champion after clearing 13 feet, 2 inches and was followed by junior Landon Heberlin at 12-08.00. On the girls’ side, junior Gynel Duke placed third at the state meet, vaulting a height of 8-06.00. Since joining the Oregon side of the border, a Mustang has placed in the top three in the state pole vault event each year.
Fast forward to this season and Dean leads all other 1A competitors by over one foot and the now sophomore sits 13th among all vaulters statewide, regardless of division. His nearest competitor is teammate and now senior Heberling. For the girls, Duke sits fourth in the state 1A standings, two inches away from third.
So, what makes this town, more known as a hiking and fishing getaway, a pole vault dynasty?
“It is all about repetition,” said volunteer coach Joe Dean. “I am always looking for a certain type of athlete and spend a large amount of time with them.”
Dean, a local business owner, school board member and unpaid volunteer coach for the Mustang track and field team, boasts six members of the team are grabbing a pole this season. A former pole vault athlete himself, a wreck his freshman year of college brought to a halt his collegiate athletic career.
“Pole vault is the only thing I coach,” said Dean of his nine years coaching. “We spend hours each week just doing pole vault. Kids in Trout Lake are starting in pole vault in the fifth or sixth grade. That is the key to what we are doing. Nobody else is doing pole vault in middle school. We have started kids as young as second grade in pole vault.”
Dean and the Mustangs are simply repeating an incident from Dean’s own life a few years ago.
“I am only doing what others did for me years ago,” Dean said. “A random guy showed up in Glenwood in 1992 and revived the pole vault program there. I was part of that revival and am just carrying on what he did for me and countless others. I am just the next chapter.”
Success in small communities breeds support and that is exactly what is taking place in Trout Lake.
‘Pole just show up for the team” said Dean. “Parents purchase poles for the kids and just leave them here for the team after the students have graduated. The community is 100 percent behind the team all the time.”
That support extends beyond the pole vault pit. Trout Lake is one of few schools with a cement planter box in the gym floor, a senior project from a Mustang student.
As teams gather at Hayward Field for the upcoming state meet, expect to see Mustangs once again on the pole vault medal stand and quite possibly, for years to come.
Before you go! If you would like to support continuing and expanded high school sports coverage in eastern Oregon for as little as $1 a month click below! Thank you!