Marshall Fryberger stopped short of saying he and his friends were fooling around, but the Lind-Ritzville junior’s involvement in the pole vault initially as a freshman was well short of genuine.
“Early in the season I hit 10 feet,” Fryberger said. “I thought, ‘Huh, I can probably do pretty well in this.’ Up to that point we were just a couple of guys with big sticks running and jumping. At that point I started to take it seriously.”
A year later, Fryberger won a State 2B title, clearing a personal-best 12-6. Now, he’s poised to push his career best to 4 feet higher than that early breakthrough height and in so doing break a 13-year-old school record.
If pole vault had weight classes like boxing, Fryberger would be considered a featherweight. He weighs 133 pounds, up 5 pounds over last year, and uses a 14-foot pole certified for 150-pounders. He could be on a 14-foot pole for 140-pounders, but finances are limited at L-R, and he can’t afford to buy it. He figures he’ll be the lightest athlete certified for his type of pole at state, which begins today and concludes Saturday at Eastern Washington University.
At the Bi-County League’s district-qualifying meet two weeks ago at Colfax, it was windy and coaches deemed it too dangerous to conduct the event. They were allowed to pass their vaulters on to district since the Panorama League had no vaulters.
Conditions were a smidge better last week at the District 7 meet at Whitworth University. But after Fryberger cleared 13-0, wind gusts strengthened. After two misses at 13-6, he stopped short of the plant box on his third attempt because the wind knocked him off stride. On his do-over, he was about to stick his pole in the box when a gust freshened again. He couldn’t stop fast enough, knocking the bar off the standard as he skidded into the protective pads.
He’s not skinny as his pole, but if the weather conditions include any measurable wind it can make vaulting tricky.
The weather a year ago was suspect much of the spring season. This year – well, Fryberger sums it up best.
“The weather’s been worse this spring than last year,” he said.
Dealing with wind, though, isn’t new for Fryberger. He lives in Ritzville where breezes in the spring are usually a daily occurrence.
“Most of the time it’s coming from behind, from the southwest, so it’s the least hurtful wind,” said Fryberger, who has the 2B state-leading mark this season by 6 inches.
Fryberger, a two-year, two-way starter at wide receiver and safety in football, pushed his career best to 13-6 at the Quincy Invitational. He missed on three attempts at 14-0.
“I was so close,” said Fryberger, who has made 13-6 twice while eclipsing 13-0 four times this season. “If I hadn’t have eaten that hamburger an hour earlier, I probably would have cleared it. I just barely brushed the bar. I know 14 is in me this year.”
L-R coach Randy Heidenreich, who was a vaulter in college, agrees.
“He’s got good speed down the runway and he’s got a nice plant,” Heidenreich said. “He gets off the ground well. He’s got all the tools. He just needs to work on his strength and his technique on top a little bit. Other than that, he’s on his way to being a pretty good little vaulter.”
Fryberger is excited about the prospect of extending his personal best and breaking the school record at state, especially since the forecast calls for the best weather this season.
He runs the anchor leg on L-R’s state-qualifying 400-meter relay. He was an alternate last year when L-R captured a state title in the event on the way to a team championship.
“The sprinter workouts have definitely helped with his pole vault success,” Heidenreich said.
Fryberger, who has played basketball the past three years, will most likely give up the sport next year to spend his winter doing workouts at either Central Washington or Spokane Falls Community College.
“He’s gone to clinics and camps. He’s become a student of the event,” Heidenreich said.
Fryberger’s goal for next year is 15-0.
What he enjoys about the state meet at EWU is the pole vault is front and center – in front of the grandstand near the finish line at Woodward Field. He knows the event is greatly appreciated by the fans.
He hopes there’s competition at state, because it’s something he thrives on.
“I like pressure. I think I jump better with pressure,” he said. “When everybody else is out and it’s just me, it feels like practice.”