BOZEMAN — Nearly two years had passed since Elijah Eckles stepped foot on the runway pole vaulting for Bozeman High School. Without having a junior track season he was nervous this spring was going to be challenging, which it has been, but through it all Elijah has pole vaulted his way to the top ranking No. 1 in the state.
“It was definitely a challenge not having a season," Bozeman pole vault coach Jesse Anderson said. "He was worried that he had forgotten to do everything, and there was a lot of reassurance going - trust me. It’s a lot like riding a bicycle. You’ll be able to just jump back into it and progress forward.”
Eckles has done nothing but progress forward.
Coming into this season, his best vault was 13 feet. He’s since crushed that by over a foot-and-a-half, clearing 14-foot-six to take over the number one spot in the state.
“I was so excited," Bozeman senior Elijah Eckles smiled. "I’ve been trying to get that number one spot for a little while, for a long time now actually, just finally beating it and my coach was suggesting maybe to beat it by an inch, but I was like no. I want to get that first place spot by quite a bit.”
It’s a competitive nature that started as a freshman going head-to-head with his older brother Zackary Eckles on the runway.
“That’s always how it’s been with sports and stuff," Eckles explained." It was really nice to beat him in a couple meets, especially towards the end.”
“He’s a fierce competitor," Anderson added. "He wants to win. He wants to be number one, so if he’s not he’s going to give it that extra effort, and speed on the runway is really what it comes down to. It’s just natural ability for him. His athleticism is phenomenal.”
However, there’s more on Eckles’ to-do list than just ranking first in the state. He also has his eyes set toward clearing a height of 15 feet, which would be a new school record.
“My freshman year is when I decided I’m really going to aim for that," Eckles said. "At the end of my freshman year after I went to state I just told myself I’m trying to go for that record.”
It’s a record close enough to touch and an outlook of mind over matter to achieve.
“I definitely think it’s a mental thing," Eckles explained. "Confidence plays a big role in pole vaulting. I think that’s just one thing I need to focus on, and I think I’ll be there.”
Eckles’ quest for a state title begins May 28 in Missoula.