Up, up and away

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; After numerous attempts at groveling proved fruitless, Ted Hinson got Adams County Christian track coach Bill Richardson to relent on his &uot;no seventh graders allowed&uot; rule.

But the stubborn coach didn’t crumble. He put a pole in front of Will Hinson &045; Ted’s son &045; Jake Marks and Eric Anders, thinking that pole vaulting would not be that exciting.

&uot;Coach Richardson pulled us out and said, ‘Who can pole vault?’&uot; said Will Hinson, now a senior going on his sixth year of vaulting. &uot;I ended up liking it a lot.&uot;

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Will’s parents Ted and Mimi both said their 18-year-old shaggy-haired son has taken to the unlikely sport like white on rice.

After finishing fourth to friend Marks’ first that initial year, Hinson has been the lone musketeer to continue vaulting.

As a freshman he finished second in state and two years ago he captured the overall prize with a successful try of 12 feet, 6 inches.

&uot;He got serious about it that first year. He’s especially been focused … well, really since day one,&uot; Ted Hinson said. &uot;He’s always taking it seriously and was upset when he was in the ninth grade and finished second overall for state.&uot;

Will Hinson’s commitment to the sport has led him recently up to Jonesboro, Ark., home of Bell Athletics, which specializes in coaching strictly pole vaulters.

Current American Record holder Jeff Hartwig is a Bell regular. Hinson’s weekend excursions in past months have him returning to Natchez always yearning for more.

&uot;They tell us at camp to pay attention to the rules, they walk you through how a run should look and little things with planting,&uot; Hinson said. &uot;It’s weird because you meet all these people from all over who share a common interest with you and it’s tough to leave after three days. I come back here where it’s not such a big deal.&uot;

Hinson’s season-best of 14 feet, 1 inch, at a meet in Centreville is second best in the state

of all private schools and is just a hair shy of the Mississippi Private School Association record of 14 feet, 6 3/4 inches that was set by Jackson Academy’s Robert Rushton.

The public school record still stands at 14 feet, 10 1/2 inches from 1983’s Kevin Herfurth from Long Beach High School.

Hinson carries a confident swagger and believes both marks are feasible for him to reach before this season is up, beginning with this weekend’s South State championships

at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson.

&uot;I hope he wins state like he hopes to do. It’s nice for him to be focused on one thing,&uot; Mimi Hinson said. &uot;I think it’s real healthy for kids to be that passionate about something.&uot;

Similar to the way golfers approach a round of 18 holes, Hinson said you’ll find most pole vaulters don’t allow negative thoughts to pass through their minds.

With many intangibles involved in being successful in at least one of the three allotted tries, Hinson focuses on improving one handicap for each run.

&uot;If you have the thought that you’re not going to be able to get over a certain height &045; I don’t care if it’s two feet &045; you’re not going to be able to do it because it’s all mental,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s tough because once you make that run and hit that box, it’s over with.&uot;

Tuesday’s practice was the first time Hinson had been on the track in two weeks due to a stretch of high, spring winds that passed through the Miss Lou.

Despite knocking the bar on several attempts at 13 feet, 6 inches, the undaunted senior extended the bar higher to 14 feet flat.

On his first try, Hinson cleared it by a good six inches or more.

&uot;There’s no end to the mistakes you can make,&uot; he said. &uot;When I cleared 14 (feet) today that was probably the only time I did everything right all day. The main thing is to get up into the air when the pole is flexing.&uot;

Like he did with the Rebel football team, Hinson watches tape of himself vaulting and also others with the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Indoor Championships on cassette.

Not only do the tapes serve a tutorial purpose, but Hinson also hopes they’ll be his ticket to an accomplished Division I college.

He has attracted moderate interest from Mississippi State and Southern Miss, Hinson’s ideal choice.

&uot;It’s hard. I haven’t had anybody send (scholarship) information to me,&uot; he said. &uot;All the looks I get my dad has to e-mail tape to them. If I could get my timing down, I could probably jump 16 feet or higher.&uot;