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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Sidelines: Set the bar high

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Napoleon is strong in field events this season with pole vaulter Elliot
Vocke, left, high jumper Ryan Fleck and long jumper Lucas Oberhaus. Oberhaus, a junior, qualified for the regional meet last season. Napoleon is strong in field events this season with pole vaulter Elliot Vocke, left, high jumper Ryan Fleck and long jumper Lucas Oberhaus. Oberhaus, a junior, qualified for the regional meet last season.
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NAPOLEON Fear of heights has never been an issue with Elliot Vocke.

The higher the better.

Vocke, a Napoleon senior, finished third in the pole vault in last year s Division II state track and field meet. He s hoping to soar even higher this season.

I think the pole vault is really exciting and fun to do. I guess there s a sense of danger involved in it that I like, said Vocke.

Ryan Fleck, a sophomore, is clearing another bar with great success. He has already recorded a personal-best effort of 6 feet, 8 inches in the high jump on more than one occasion.

Fleck didn t even participate in track a year ago, when he played baseball. Only a shoulder injury that will require surgery has led Fleck to the track. His right shoulder, which hurts when he throws a baseball or football, has not hindered him with track.

I don t have any regrets about not jumping last year, Fleck said. I liked having the experience of playing baseball, but I m enjoying the jumping this year.

Napleon senior Elliot Vocke finished third in pole vault last season at the Division II state meet. Vocke owns the school record with an effort of 14 feet, 10  inches. Napleon senior Elliot Vocke finished third in pole vault last season at the Division II state meet. Vocke owns the school record with an effort of 14 feet, 10 inches.
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Napoleon coach Tim Downey s history with the Wildcats track program dates back 30 years. He worked as an assistant for five before taking over the head job and has held that post for 25 years. He s seen hundreds of athletes come and go during that time but he s never had a pole vaulter as talented as Vocke and a high jumper as good as Fleck at the same time.

Neither has been defeated this season. Toss in high jumper Lucas Oberhaus, a junior, and Downey, who primarily works with discus throwers and pole vaulters, has plenty to be excited about.

Oberhaus is regularly recording jumps in the 20-foot range.

It s tough being the discus and pole vault coach, especially when you have the caliber of athletes we have in the jumping events, Downey said.

Vocke recently cleared a school-record 14-10 in a meet at Paulding. It broke his old mark of 14-9, set last season at the state meet.

Wildcats sophomore Ryan Fleck has cleared 6 feet, 8 inches. A shoulder injury forced him to quit baseball, which he played last season, and compete in track and field. Wildcats sophomore Ryan Fleck has cleared 6 feet, 8 inches. A shoulder injury forced him to quit baseball, which he played last season, and compete in track and field.
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In the pole vault, he s among the best nationally, Downey said. There are a lot of things to pole vault but he s pretty aware of what it s all about.

Vocke, who has attended summer camps for pole vaulters, has approached this season with goals clearly in mind. He would like nothing better than to clear 15 feet while in high school. He would like a state title.

Recent adjustments with his approach down the runway have him encouraged about reaching that goal.

I m feeling pretty good right now, he said. Actually, my steps were right on for a change. I had been back too far with my start and I moved up a little and I have more speed at the end.

Vocke, who has also competed in football and swimming, recently finalized plans to continue with pole vaulting in college. He accepted a scholarship offer to attend the University of Cincinnati.

I ve always wanted to jump in college ever since about eighth grade, but it didn t seem realistic until last year when I made it to state, said Vocke, who failed to qualify for the state meet as a freshman and sophomore.

Fleck, who has a 34-inch vertical jump, has a strong chance to make it to state in his first season participating in track. He came into the outdoor season having already outdone some of the state s top competition during the indoor season when he cleared 6-8.

Generally, a jump of 6-2 at regionals will get you to state, Downey said. He s just a skywalker. You can just see him get airborne.

Fleck appears to be the first high jumper at Napoleon in more than 20 years with the kind of ability to threaten to break the school record of 6-11. The late Barry Sonnenberg, who went on to compete in track and basketball at the University of Toledo, set the school high jump record in 1981.

I really never thought I d have another high jumper to go 6-10, but with Ryan it looks like I might, Downey said.

Fleck has won the high jump event every time out this spring. But he isn t content with what he s accomplished.

My goal, of course, is to get the school record, Fleck said. Of course I d want to get it this year. At the district, regional and state meets you can get the adrenaline going and who knows how high you can go.

Oberhaus has been slowed by a thigh injury this season. His personal-best long jump of 20 feet, 8 inches came last season when he qualified for the regional.

He s done 20-2 this year but it s been tough, Downey said. He s looking to push to 21 feet and we both think that s still possible. He ll need to do that to get to state because it s a tough regional.

Contact Donald Emmons at:demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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