Josh McDaniel: Improving by Leaps and Bounds
Sun. June 10, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | By Rick Brown
Boys Athlete of the Year: Josh McDaniel. Senior, Lakeland. The senior won the Class 3A state pole vault title with a vault of 15 feet, 6 inches -- the best in all classifications in the state this season. (Photo by Pierre DuCharme | The Ledger)
By RICK BROWN | THE LEDGER
LAKELAND | The formula was simple for Josh McDaniel.
Start with motivation, sprinkle in some determination, effort and hard work, then finish it off with faith. When the Lakeland High School senior mixed those ingredients together, it equaled a state pole vault championship.
After a disappointing second-place finish in the state finals as a junior, McDaniel was determined for a better outcome this year.
He made it happen.
McDaniel is the PolkPreps.com boys track and field athlete of the year.
He jumped a state-best 15 feet 6 inches to claim the Class 3A state title — best in all classifications. But it was his junior-season result that set his goal in motion.
"I put the pressure on myself after I had gotten second place," McDaniel said. "I could have and should have gotten first last year, but I didn't have as good of a day as I could have. It was a big motivational factor. I've always believed, and one of things that helped me (is) I praise God whether I win or lose. I don't think I would have been as motivated if I had won."
McDaniel didn't get serious about pole vaulting until after his freshman year when he showed his dad a Youtube video of Ukrainian world pole vault record-holder Sergey Bubka. He said he wanted to do it. His father told him that if he was serious, he would help him become the best.
They started making the two-hour drive to Melbourne to train under former state pole vault champ and former state record-holder Bobby Haeck.
"If you want to put in the time and energy and get the reps, you can beat the learning curve," Haeck said. "He improved a foot, foot and a half every year. He was willing to work at it by training hard. Now, he's reaping the benefits."
His quest during the state championships got off to a rocky start when he got behind on misses at 12-6. Then, he missed again at 14-6. At the end of 15 feet, he was behind. But he made 15-6 on his first jump. When the final competitor couldn't make it, McDaniel had realized his goal.
Still, he wasn't totally happy. He failed in his attempts at 16 feet.
"In the beginning, it was obviously just a rush," he said. "I couldn't believe I had done it. The main word is thankfulness. God has blessed me with a truly amazing coaching staff and support group."
Haeck was just as excited.
"It was a phenomenal performance on his part to win the state championship," he said. "That was his goal. It was one of the best performances of all time under pressure."