Worthy endeavor: Lewis and Clark pole vaulter Kyle Worthy has elevated quickly to state title contender

May 7—When Michael Johnston saw Kyle Worthy in his advanced conditioning class at Lewis and Clark High three years ago, Johnston saw a pole vaulter.

Worthy has proven Johnston's initial evaluation was spot on.

It hasn't been the smoothest ride for Worthy at times. He's had to overcome obstacles, mostly of his making.

Prior to turning out for track, Worthy was spending a lot of time doing an activity unbeknownst to many — parkour. It's a sport of running through mostly urban areas while performing various gymnastic moves over or on man-made obstacles such as walls and buildings.

In London, for example, it's popular to jump from building top to building top. That's something Worthy would like to try some day.

He did parkour at Spokane Gymnastics and recently at a facility in Spokane Valley.

Worthy broke his left ankle twice doing parkour. The second break caused him to miss most of his junior season. He and pole vault coach Hayley Gonzalez decided he should quit parkour until after high school.

Johnston will never forget the day he saw Worthy doing a fitness test in class.

"I just wanted to get him out for track. I'm always scouting for kids," Johnston said. "He had one of the best long jumps I ever had in class for a sophomore."

Worthy played soccer through elementary and middle schools, but decided it wasn't for him when presented with an opportunity to play at a more competitive level.

"I just wanted to have fun and it wasn't fun anymore," Worthy said.

He turned out for tennis his freshman year and never won a match on the junior varsity. Worthy's lone activity was parkour until Johnston discovered him.

Worthy has elevated quickly in pole vault.

His best his first year was 11 feet, 3 inches.

Despite missing most of the season a year ago, he managed to go 13-6, missing out by 6 inches of qualifying for state.

He continued to work on his technique in the offseason and came into the spring prepared.

It was evident at the Pasco Invite, where he won and went 16-0, a 2 1/2 -foot improvement over last season.

He took three attempts at 16-3 and Gonzalez said he was well over the bar on his second try.

He ranks second in 4A, an inch behind the state leader.

Worthy broke the school record (14-6) in his first meet this season. He wants to continue adding to it.

"He's always been coachable," Gonzalez said.

"He had early injuries," Johnston said. "He's not your typical athlete. He could have given it up at any point, but he didn't."

Worthy studies the event but largely relies on his body to find its way.

"I've had a lot of athletes that are incredibly book smart and overanalyze it," Gonzalez said. "He has way better body awareness than any athlete I've coached. He's very comfortable in the air and upside down. He trusts the poll to leverage him up."

Worthy's goal coming into the season was to reach 16-0. Johnston and Gonzalez believe he can go higher.

"He's pretty fearless and that's great when it comes to being a pole vaulter," Gonzalez said. "There's more in him. He's got another big jump in him — 16-6 for sure and maybe as high as 17."

So how does a student-athlete relatively new to an event make such big strides?

"The amount of work and the quality of work he puts in is top notch," Gonzalez said. "He's not going to sit around and watch. He strives to get better. If he had discovered vaulting earlier, he'd be jumping a lot higher."

Worthy credits the foundation he built in parkour in helping him transition to vaulting.

"It's similar to parkour, but it's also different," Worthy said. "It's a challenge. I already had the basic idea of the sport in parkour. I like doing scary stuff and pole vault fit right into that."

Worthy begins his pursuit of a state championship this week at the Greater Spokane League subdistrict meet.

"I haven't had a chance to go to a meet as big as state and contend at all," Worthy said. "Winning or getting on the (awards) podium would be a great achievement for me."

Johnston believed Worthy could reach the heights he has this season

"I didn't think it was going to happen as quickly as it has, but I thought he'd be doing 16 for sure," Johnston said. "It's just him and the pole vault. He doesn't worry about other competitors or is distracted by other things. He's more worried about the bar."

Worthy plans to vault at Community Colleges of Spokane, where he wants to take a two-year auto mechanic course and become a certified mechanic. If he continues to improve, he'll take the sport as far as he can go.