How high can Jordan Hampton go?
That’s the question on the minds of many as the high school track and field season winds down. It was not a question many were asking last year.
The Class 3A, Region 6 meet is Saturday at Bryan Station, for whom Hampton has excelled in pole vaulting as a senior. It was not an event in which he was especially great before this season, because it was not an event in which he was especially interested in before this season.
Now it’s an event in which Hampton has a shot at winning a state championship. His mark of 14 feet is tied for first in Class 3A along with Simon Kenton’s Kailan Frazier.
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“Jordan is just such an amazing young man,” Bryan Station Coach Kathy Broadnax said. “For him to, with very little coaching at the beginning, get that hunger for pole vault and get out and work. … He’s done pretty much everything he has on his own.”
Hampton dreamed of being a state champion, but not outside the lanes.
However, his times on the track did not keep pace with his peers’ after middle school. The lifelong sprinter found himself in the midst of an identity crisis by his sophomore season. Broadnax urged him to take up pole vault then, but that idea didn’t resonate right away.
“So I faltered for a year,” Hampton said. “I got into it a little bit my junior year and it was OK, but this year I’ve gotten really invested into it.”
With the help of a private pole vault coach, Jamie Steffen, Hampton went from a pole-vaulting newbie to school-record holder in a year’s time. Steffen’s independent track-and-field club, Fuzion Athletics, opened its second facility in Lexington in 2012 (the first opened in Minnesota in 2008).
“I’m so glad he came here, because if he didn’t come here I wouldn’t be jumping this high,” Hampton said. “That’s a fact.”
Broadnax is equally excited for Hampton to have found a specialist to fit his vaulting needs, which Station (along with many other high schools in the state) are unable to meet. He’s part of Station’s team, of course, but the athletes with whom he trains — like Lafayette’s Kristina Leggas, a state contender in the girls’ pole vault — have morphed into a second team of sorts.
“I couldn’t be more thankful for their coach,” Broadnax said. “(He’s) giving them the opportunity to be great at something that I could have never given.”
‘Four years of failure’
After struggling to find a meaningful way to contribute to the team, Hampton has turned into a reliable point producer whom the Defenders can count on in the coming weeks. His confidence, once shaken to the point that track wasn’t fun anymore, has found firm ground on which to stand again.
That was evident at the Fayette County Championships last week, when the senior strutted down the runway wearing reflective shades before clearing the bar at 14 feet. His personal-record performance briefly upstaged the senior recognition ceremony; no one seemed to mind.
“To actually feel like your name is known around the city for doing something, it’s never been like that in high school,” Hampton said. “I just love waking up feeling like that.”
He expressed some regret that he didn’t heed Broadnax’s wisdom and pick up pole vaulting earlier. But, those extra seasons of coming up short might be the fuel that keeps pushing him higher.
“I feel like when I plant this pole, I’m putting all four years of failure into that pole, and I think that’s why I’m doing so well,” Hampton said. “I really think it’s been that anger. I wouldn’t say it’s cocky. I just have that desire to win.”
How high can Jordan Hampton go?
“The sky’s the limit, really, for him,” Broadnax said.
Class 3A, Region 6 Meet
Where: Bryan Station High School football stadium
When: 9:30 a.m. Saturday
Tickets: $6 adults, $4 students